Kansas City Missouri October 2003
In the summer of 2000 Eubank productions was the first amateur theatre company to do The Rocky Horror Show in the state of MO. October 17th the show opened again even better than before. There are many elements that make this show great: singing, acting, set/costumes/props, and direction.
It is rare to attend an amateur theatre production of any show in which all the singers are good. Several voices in this show are excellent. Scott Cox’s Frank is gritty, gruff and full of soul. Spencer Brown belts out some amazing riffs (pun intended). Bethany Hohly has a beautiful voice perfect for the naïve Janet Weiss.
The actors in this production present their characters well. Scott is in command every second he is on stage. Every heckle is handled with finesse. Spencer is comical enough to humanize Riff but shifty enough to keep a spooky edge. Tracy Van Unen gives Magenta tangible personality (which isn’t always easy to do). The untrained eye wouldn’t even realize that the Usherette and Magenta are played by the same actress. Brian Shortess does a great job as Rocky. It is rare to find an actor who can pull off the child like innocence and then later the awkward sexuality. Tyler Parson’s Dr. Scott is hysterical. His character is the most comic book-like one in the show.
Visually the show is beautiful. Overall the show has a very comic book feel, I believe that it is very close to Richard O’Brien’s original intent. The colors used are bold and bright and every thing is done to an extreme. Rocky’s birth tank looks massive and industrial. The spiral staircase proves to be useful as well as a great tool for adding levels to the set. Eddie’s coke machine adds to the comic book feel with its bright red logo. The use of hanging fabric panels makes dramatic and quick scene changes. The props also have a very comic book feel (since I designed many of them I can say that was my goal). I am especially happy with how the dumbbells and the car bumper turned out. The bumper is 2 D with stylized curves of the 50s automobile. Costumes could not have been better. The Eubanks great attention to detail pays off. The Janet dress for the opening of the show is perfect with the beautiful 50s style sweater. The Riff/Magenta take-over costumes are a fantastic homage to the movie. The Phantom’s Janet petticoats are adorable and make the dancing look fabulous. Frank, Rocky, Columbia, Eddie/Dr. Scott are all worth noting. Frank had a pearlescent purple corset with matching glittered heels and metallic purple lined cape. Rocky had traditional gold metallic trunks that accentuated his assets, so to speak. If you have seen the show before or even a shadow cast you know its rare to see trunks that look good, usually poofy lame ill fitted undies are worn. Later he has another metallic square cut brief that though minimal hold continuity with what glamour puss Frankie would have waiting in Rocky’s closet for him upon birth. Columbia has a sparkly red top and cute black ruffled panties. She wears her hair in pigtails and sports bumblebee lips of glitter. I have seen about twelve productions of the stage show and more often than not costumes are found at thrift stores, Pricilla’s, and Hot Topic. I have seen a lot of costumes in which a piece was used only because it could work, not because it was ideal. In this show there were store bought pieces but they fit with the aesthetic of the show. As someone with an art background I can be quite particular about continuity with the look of a show, but the Eubanks were true to the look of the show. Trixi’s costume was a brilliant blue with metallic silver pattern, which matched the material and style of the Phantom’s costumes. This use of blue also opens up the palette for the rest of the show, straying from the traditional black, red, and purple palette for shows I have seen before. Working on the show I know that the floorshow corsets were a concern for the director, reluctantly he chose matching store bought pieces. They were a matching satiny red and actually looked quite good in context. Magenta wears a piece of store bought lingerie intended for someone’s French maid fantasy. With a body like Tracy has I think this works, after all she is the maid, and we can see that clearly, despite the costumes lackluster look. The Coke delivery uniform that Eddie wears even helps the continuity of the story. Make up and hair is also great. I am particularly fond of Magenta’s crazy pink eye shadow. Frank’s more traditional look is accented with a bit of glitter. Columbia’s eye make up gives her an added bit of pizzazz.
No matter how beautiful a cast is or talented they are, ultimately direction makes or breaks a show. There are several clever moments in this show. During the lab scene when Frank is doing his birth speech he says “Balls” at which point they toss balls into the tank. He shouts “tubes” and they reveal giant test tubes in the background of the lab. Then he yells “crimps” and leans to Riff who crimps his hair. This is one of the funniest interpretations I have ever seen in a production of Rocky.
Normally I am not fond of the dinner scene being used in the play because it is difficult to stage clearly. When the lights come up for the dinner scene in this production the cast is in the formation of the Last Supper. They stay roughly in this formation for the whole scene, it works perfectly.
For Rocky’s birth he is wearing over sized baby clothes-overall shorts, a cute little top and a huge pacifier. With “Sword of Damoclese” he is very much the newborn baby not learning to walk but learning to dance with the rest of the well-choreographed cast.
The Narrator’s interaction with the cast is very funny. For his “What was over?” speech he enters from the back of the stage very much interrupting the scene. When he enters to sing “Rocky Horror you need peace of mind…” Frank is startled and jumps out of the way. For Frank and Rocky’s wedding he is sobbing hysterically as he comforts the very confused Brad and Janet. And before “Touch-A Touch Me” he walks by Janet, takes the monitor remote control from her hand and stirs his martini with it as he continues across the stage. The constant interaction between him and the rest of the cast is genius.
After “Super Heroes” Brad and Janet are forced together by the Phantoms. At the end of “Science Fiction Double Feature Reprise” Janet sings a very Piccidilly cast “Ooh ooh ooh ooh oooooooh” to which Frank pops out from around the corner to respond “Doo lang, doo lang”. The now jaded Janet bounces with excitement to see him once again.
I have been following Eubank Productions since they first did Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show in 2000. Every show gets better and it is clear that their dedication to a show’s integrity and their attention to detail make their shows fantastic. I have to say this is the most beautiful production of this show I have ever seen. This tiny venue allows the action spill out around you and envelop from the point when the curtains open to the last note.