Springfield Missouri April 2001
I knew that the Rocky Horror Show in Springfield Missouri was going to be good. Before going to the show I had a little background. First the role of Frank N. Furter was being played by Scott Cox who I knew through a friend. I knew he was a flamboyant performer and had an INCREDIBLE voice. I also knew that Steven Eubank was involved with the show. Some of you may remember seeing his name on the Penn Valley Rocky Horror page. He directed that show and was to be cast as a phantom and Riff Raff for a couple of the shows in this particular run. These two factors alone supported my suspicion that this would be a great show. Of the several different casts I have seen do Rocky this one was probably the most traditional. The story didn't waver very much at all. What stood out were the subtle nuances of the actors that gave the audience a great deal of insight to their characters…I will get into that more later.
Musically this show borrowed from both the Broadway Revival and other more traditional productions. I noticed a Broadway feel in Damn It Janet with the Phantom's providing the wedding bell style chorus. Singing ability ranged from good to great. I was especially aware of Frank, Janet, and Columbia's singing ability.
The characters were played traditionally with the exception of a few minor changes. Most noticeable was Columbia. She seemed to be styled after the Broadway show's Columbia. She wore pvc and faux fur, looking very dark and gothic. Magenta was very subtle. Some shows make her out as more Riff's partner (and equal) this take had her as almost a background character. Riff Raff was quite a change from what I am used to. In this production he was almost cartoon like. He was a cute raver-esque take on the role. When the takeover rolled around it seemed a lot more of a surprise then it normally would have. Frank, vocally, was very Tim Curry like. His character had the strength of Curry but also at times a real tenderness. Scott was a show in and off himself.
The set was somewhat minimal but very effective. The stage had a small catwalk platform jutting out at the center. There was a doorway center stage that characters could utilize not only for entrances but also to frame the bedroom scenes and the platform above the doorway could be used for the phantoms to sit on. There was a cage type wall on the right and a large spider web on the left. This set lent itself for the use of Phantoms as scenery. In some scenes Phantoms would reach through parts of the set to hold frames, torches, etc. During There's A Light the Phantoms were used to form parts of the car. Two Phantoms held lights in their mouths to make headlights. They held a balloon in their lap and as one arm mimicked a windshield wiper the other stroked the balloon to make the noise of the wiper. When the car had a blowout one of the balloons was popped to make the sound.
Once in a while was another interesting scene. In many shows the song is used to show Brad's anger for Janet's indiscretion with Rocky. In this show we see that Brad's feelings are not so black and white. He goes from anger, to sadness, to comfort (presumably from realizing she and he had done the same thing and were indeed meant for each other). His feelings for her were seen in his personification of her robe. As he sang he picked up her fallen robe and held it close. Through the course of the song he would throw it away and then retrieve it again. It was a pretty interesting use of a prop. The bedroom seen was really fun. This was the most risqué version of these scenes I have seen. The silhouettes were crystal clear and the simulated sexual interactions were very graphic…and funny. I asked the Director afterwards about how they got such a sharp image with the shadows. He explained that to do so it was necessary to use a non stage light (something about filaments…it was way over my head). He went on to say they had very little time to do blocking because that effect had just been completed days before the technical rehearsals.
I think the most interesting thing about this production is the way it ended. For Super Heroes Brad and Janet are very separate. It was as if though they started the journey together they had become different people and would leave it separately. As Science Fiction reprise played Janet came out dressed to fit in modern times with a group of Phantoms. Clutching her program from the show she stares up for a moment sadly then smiles and runs off with the group. I think it is pretty amazing how such a subtle thing can really change the story line, or the audience's perception of it. It takes the fun fantasy story line and creates a much larger meaning that Rocky fans like myself forget after seeing it so many times.