Kansas City Missouri June & July 2013
Steven Eubank has done it again. No, not just directing Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show. We all know that as long as he is breathing he will be planning his next production of our favorite obsession. What he has done is created a brand new production and that has impressed me once again.
I had heard early on that Steven was doing a bare bones homage to the original Theater Upstairs production in London 40 years ago. This really excited me. I love the show and have seen many different productions. Steven’s are always amazing but they are definitely not “bare bones.” So I knew he was really going to be straying from his usual. I also know that Steven dreams big, so this was really going to be a major under-taking for him.
Friday June 14th, I was lucky enough to attend the preview performance for this show and I was floored. Right off the bat as I entered the auditorium I was in love with the scaffolding set. This was a direct head nod to the original production. The stage was set up beautifully with amazing detail added to the proscenium and columns behind the scaffolding. The entire thing was draped in canvas and rope hiding just enough to keep you guessing. I loved every inch of it.
As the show began I was intrigued by the masked ushers. When they pulled a very Brad and Janet looking couple from the audience onto the stage for Damn It Janet that intrigue grew. The ushers held cue-cards in front of them to feed them their lines and they undressed and redressed them on stage. I love how this played because it was there to keep the virgins on their toes but also worked on a higher level for the seasoned fan. I read this as Brad and Janet are a modern day every-man. They could be sitting right next to you in the audience, or perhaps it could even be you. Despite the simplicity of Richard O’Brien’s tale Steven Eubank understands its true genius, and throws in a bit of his own for good measure.
There were many high points for me in this show. I loved the ushers transforming into their characters onstage. As they stripped down into their next costume I had no trouble investing in the story and in fact loved the reveal as it went along. I also loved that the actors were not glued to the stage. Anytime there is a threat of an actor coming out into the audience I LOVE it. With Rocky there is just such lack of barrier with the audience participation that I feel it is only that much greater when their bodies are also allowed to cross that line. It is a little bit scary, a little bit sexy and a whole lot of fun. Probably my favorite thing in the entire production occurs at the very end of the show. When Riff and Magenta make their escape they jump into the Coke freezer that Eddie had previously entered from. I was a little bit confused at first but then as they hopped in we see a billow of smoke coming from behind the freezer, Riff pulls out a steering wheel and the lights go out as we hear an explosion. Next we see a tiny Coke freezer rocket zooming across the theater on a pulley system, into outer space, complete with a tiny Riff and Magenta sitting inside. The rocket flies across the theater and disappears as it breaks the sound barrier and confetti rains down on the Narrator below, who quickly pulls out an umbrella to shield himself from the sparkly debris. It was breathtaking.
Aside from the extra goodies Steven has created with this production there are many other notable things. Musically the show is great. No flaws as far as I am concerned and strong singing voices by all. The acting and dancing are incredible, as I've come to expect from any show that Steven does. My favorites from this production include: Tyler Eisenreich (Riff Raff), Noah Whitmore (Brad), Bill Pelletier (Narrator) and Breanne Pickering (Magenta). However, it must be said that the entire cast did an exceptional job. The lighting for the show also deserves mention. It was beautifully lit, but the addition of some strip lighting above the scaffolding really gave it a vintage rock and roll feel. Basing the costumes on the original designs by Sue Blane means that several of them have a bit of a movie feel but this was well balanced with some other original and provocative pieces.
If I were to rate this show I have to say it is my favorite of Steven's productions since the Penn Valley Show. That show was my first, and it will always be very special to me. In the grand scheme of all things Rocky I have to say Steven puts on the most consistently amazing productions of any that I have seen. And although it is impossible to put all the productions I've seen in ranking order, they are all so vastly different, I have to say without a doubt that if hard pressed this production would be very close to the top of my list. And further, I hold director Steven Eubank in the highest regard. He is one of the most talented individuals I know, and I can always count on him to put as much thought into his Rocky Horror as I do. I'm looking forward to attending as many of these performances as possible and of course looking forward to the ongoing work of the cast and crew of this amazing production.