Omaha Nebraska October 2003
This Halloween has been exhausting and exhilarating for me. Eubank Productions just finished up their fantastic production of Rocky Horror Show last night here in Kansas City and before saying my good byes to the cast after their midnight shows a few friends and I made a road trip to see the Stages of Omaha production’s closing show. I have been following the Omaha group since they first did Rocky two years ago. This third year was quite a bit different though. This year their regular theater was occupied with all the trappings of their fall show “Bat Boy”. They couldn’t give up Rocky all together so to get their fix they had two performances down the street at the magnificent Orpheum Theatre. If you are familiar with these two places you are already asking yourself “WTF?” If you are not let me explain. The New Millennium Theatre that Stages of Omaha usually uses hold around 100 people. It is an intimate setting for Rocky and creates an atmosphere that the audience has to become part of. The Orpheum holds about 2000. This is the traditional old style theatre with balconies and a domed ceiling…you know the whole bit. This giant theatre created an entirely different mood.
Many elements of the show remained similar to what I am used to. Many of the cast members had been in one of the past productions of the show. The infamous D. Kevin Williams reprised his role as the good doctor. Kevin Buswell was Riff Raff. Jeff Nelson played the Narrator. Emily Jane Thompson belted out a fantastic Columbia. And Tim Reilly donned his Brad glasses once more. Among the Phantoms were many familiar faces also sporting their pvc and leather once again: Keith T. Olsen, Mary Pennisi, and my personal favorite phantom Jason Rogers. Besides a few new faces in the principle roles the phantoms had tripled on stage from last years show and there was an added group of “house” phantoms that added about nine more.
As usual the acting and singing were fantastic. The real difference in this production was the space and how it was filled. The huge stage allowed for a lot of really neat effects. During seating the stage kind of looked like a rave. There were phantoms spinning light balls (I am sure there is a technical name for this but I am sure you all know what I am talking about). In the back of the stage there was a long chain link cage platform that housed the band on each side and had a open curtained area in the middle. There were two rolling sets of stairs that were made to look like brick. This all added to a grungy street look for the hoodlum looking phantoms. The cages and connecting rigging created a platform which housed the Narrator’s perch on the top left and the lab on the top right. The top middle of the platform served many purposes. There was a screen for many of the shadow play scenes that was crowned by a marquee that displayed “Late night double feature picture show”. The theater had a fly system so this could be moved up and down very quickly for different scenes. For Frank’s entrance there was another opaque rectangle behind the screen. Before he appeared the screen was backlit and the smaller screen lifted slowly to give the illusion of an elevator and then the front screen was lifted to open the door. It looked really great. A bit later for Eddie’s entrance there was a jukebox arched entryway that was brought down on the fly system. It even lit up. A couple of the house phantoms ran up and down the aisles of the theater with a front tire/handle bar apparatus with lit headlight as if to be part of Eddie’s biker gang. For “There’s a Light” they had constructed a car complete with working headlights and flames painted on the sides. Instead of a throne Frank had a leopard print ottoman type chair. During the Frank/Rocky wedding scene a confetti cannon shot out from the balcony it was a nice touch. Frank and Rocky exited down from the top platform via the two sets of stairs that had been pushed together to make a really wide set of stairs. The different configuration of these stairs allowed a lot of versatility. The shadow screen was used again for the bedroom scenes and then for “Once in a While”. Phantom Jason Rogers danced behind the screen dressed as Janet while brad sang. Then was a joined by several of the other Phantoms before being revealed as men when the screen was lifted. For “Planet Schmanet” they wheeled out two giant spark plugs that lit up that were part of the sonic transducer. During the floor show the actor’s boas glowed in the black light, it looked amazing. Then for castle take off the stage was piped full of fog and rotating gobo lights made it look as though the entire space was filled with these rotating gears. It looked pretty amazing.
Despite all of the fun new visuals I have to say that there is something I like about the small venue they usually use. One of the things I have always loved about the show is the sense of intimacy it has, especially with this group of performers-they are warm and loveable people and it gets a bit lost in that distance. A theater such as this maintains the fourth wall that Rocky typically gives a resounding finger to. It was a great show and I am so glad I had a chance to see it, but I am crossing my fingers that next year they will be back in the theater they call home.