EXCELSIOR SPRINGS MISSOURI JULY 2014
So it seems that just a couple of weeks ago I was writing a little review of another show, this year we’ve been lucky enough to plan several Rocky trips and still have several ahead of us. As if that wasn’t enough to really make me feel lucky, this time we only had to travel about 30 miles. The best part of having a show so close is that it makes it possible to see every performance. When you see every performance you really get the chance to see a show grow. Play It Again Rocky was lucky enough to see a dress rehearsal of this show two days before it opened. Then we were there for its entire run.
At the cast party after the show closed one of the actors asked, “So how did we rate?” I get asked this question a lot when people see how many productions we’ve been to. And honestly there isn’t any good way to answer. How can you compare shows when they are all so vastly different? How can you compare a production that can spend $2500 on costumes when another may have a total budget of $2500 for their whole show? How do you compare a production that is in a proper theater to a show that takes place in a bar? In truth you can’t. What I can say about this show is I loved every second of it. The actors “got it.” And that doesn’t happen every time. The show evolved as the performances passed and the cast fed on the audience’s enthusiasm. I’ve always said that Rocky works best in a small theater and this is proof of that yet again.
Vocally this show is impressive. It sounded as if they were using the Roxy Cast recording to learn their songs. This is one of my favorite recordings so obviously that says something. Sam Barrett was exceptional in the role of Frank N. Furter. Sam’s singing was some of the strongest I have seen in the role. Amanda Day commanded the stage as Janet and was instrumental (see what I did there?) to the show as its musical director. Eric Woods, Riff Raff, was a crowd favorite with his solo in Over At The Frankenstein Place. Dawn Stevenson as Magenta and Peter Barratt as Brad should also be commended for their strong voices. One of my favorite voices in the show belonged to one of the Phantoms who sang Science Fiction Double Feature Reprise, Mia Gansen. Her voice was sweet and pure and truly captured the essence of the Usherette’s love of the B-movie.
One thing I really enjoy about a show with several Phantoms is that it provides more opportunities for elaborate choreography. Besides playing Frank N. Furter Sam also choreographed the show. I’ve seen shows that have no choreography (except Time Warp of course) and shows that dance the hell out of every single song. Sam found a very happy medium with choreography for key songs. If a show is over-danced I think it makes it harder to lose yourself in the story. Don’t get me wrong, we all know that a musical isn’t real life, but a few dance numbers makes a life worth living in my opinion anyway. This show was very strong as far as dance and movement were concerned.
The way this show spoke most to me was emotionally. If you’ve ever seen Rocky live you might understand but if you’ve ever worked on Rocky you know well of what I speak. There is an appreciation from the audience of Rocky Horror that is very different from most shows. That appreciation becomes a dialogue that volleys back and forth. When the audience shows their adoration the cast eats it up and gives back double. This show was not part of the Excelsior Spring’s Community Theatre’s regular season. It was put into the calendar without a lot of production time. Rehearsals began for the show while several of the actors were still in performances of the last production at the theatre. They had something like two to three weeks of rehearsals for a show that would run three weekends. That is an amazing feat in and of itself. Rehearsal period aside, there were other obstacles. Some of the roles were not easily cast, there just weren’t enough people auditioning. The actors playing Rocky and Eddie weren’t even really “theatre” people, they just kind of ended up in the show. It has been my experience that the folks who find themselves accidentally in a production of Rocky Horror tend to have the most profound experiences in the show. Talking with Shawn Kiehl who played Eddie, it was clear that the whole experience was exciting for him. That excitement definitely carried over into his performance and seeing his confidence build over the course of the production was a real treat.
The professionalism of this small town theatre company rivaled just about anything we’ve seen at Play It Again Rocky. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show with such a large production team/crew. Their hearts were in the show every bit as much as each and every actor on the stage. From the moment you walk in the door at the Slightly Off Broadway Theatre you felt that sense of Rocky family and luckily for us it never went away, even after we started yelling vulgarities at their show. It was a pleasure and honor to be part of this great experience and I can honestly say next year can’t come soon enough!