DES MOINES SEPTEMBER 2000
In September of 2000 we had the great pleasure of seeing Richard O’brien’s The Rocky Horror Show in Des Moines Iowa. Over the years and through a server crash I seemed to have lost the original review I wrote of the show; however, I do remember some key elements that I will include here.
When we entered the theatre we were immediately greeted by phantoms who were selling wax lips and looking flirty. There was some fun interaction as we found our seats. The theatre was fashioned like a tacky strip club with an almost Greek pediment atop the stage at the head of a runway. Most of the action took place along the runway utilizing a stripper poll at the furthest end. The Narrator had a small table as if part of the audience or maybe the tacky strip club owner. It should also be noted that if you look really close to the decorative painting on the runway the design was made from little bodies in lewd acts.
One interesting thing about his production was the use of two ushers, male and female. They sang together on Science Fiction Double Feature harmonizing. It was a really nice effect. One of my very favorite show moments happened in this production as well. When Brad says the line to Janet about heat coming off of the grill there is an actual barbecue grill onstage. The phantoms were cooking over the grill and as they hold the sweater out toward the grill one of the phantoms grabbed it with a bbq fork and tossed it into the grill. It was the most interesting take on that scene I can think of.
This production was responsible for the most memorable Frank entrance I have seen. When we go to shows we are always curious about Frank’s entrance. As we were looking around to figure out where Frank would be he slides down the stripper pole fireman style from the catwalks above. It was incredibly startling and very impressive, especially in the shoes he was wearing. We were likewise impressed by his numerous costumes, and fantastic 80s drag queen Dynasty wigs. Also during Sweet Transvestite the Phantoms were lounging around the stage passing a joint. When Janet would normally say “right” to Frank, instead he picks up the joint, takes a drag, and as he passed it to the next person he said “right” with a very strained quiet voice.
Another amusing moment was for the sonic transducer. Instead of some huge elaborate set piece it was basically a handle on the wall with a sign above it (typical hardware store variety) that said “sonic transducer.”
The set and costumes all fit together very well. I recall the cast sang and acted very well. I do remember one of the phantom girls sang an intro to Eddie’s Teddy that was pretty amazing. The cast was used very well throughout the show. During the floorshow as Columbia came out the music changed to a burlesque style song. She did her verse taking full advantage of the stage and stripper pole. It was almost as if the set was designed around that one moment. I thought it was a really interesting choice, I don’t think I would have ever thought of.
To close the show the two Ushers came back out and as they sang they used police tape to mark off the whole set. It was a really creative way to bring the show back to reality. It tied together the whole strip club theme and toyed a bit with the idea of fantasy. All in all it was a very creative staging of the play and I have to say it probably in my top 5 productions.