Last night, or rather, early this morning, it happened again. It has been almost 5 years since I have seen the film and over 10 since I saw the live production. Seacoast Repertory theater in Portsmouth NH was the place. The last time I had seen the live musical was at this very same theater during it’s very first run there. It wasn’t quite as racy back them. The elements of the play were still there, but it was played less as a baudy, campy sex romp musical and more as a straightforward broadway musical with sexual elemnts hinted at but not exactly explored. They repoduced it from the word to the stage almost verbatim, greatly resembling the movie.
From the opening number of “Science Fiction Double Feature” capped by the two actresses playing Magenta and Columbia stopping and briefly making out, I knew we were in for a different sort of ride this time.
Before I get into that though, let me explain something: I LOVE The Rocky Horror Picture Show!!!! In the late 80’s, during my time as a disaffected punk rocker hanging out in Boston, friends of mine had always talked about the wild crowds at this movie that played at midnite off Harvard Square at the Church Street theater (still plays there!!). They told me of the freakshow cast of characters who acted out the movie, the yelling at the screen (“callbacks”), tossing rice and toast and squirting people with water guns. I was intrigued.
So one night, after a show at the Rat featuring a bunch of no name bands, we went to Harvard Square looking for fun and excitement and ended up in line with about 200 people all dressed in varying forms of underwear and drag. I was a little hesitant at first to get in line with a row of drag queens but even before I went into the theater, I realized I could relate to these fans: this was their release, much the same way punk rock was for me. The fanatical cult like following around this film was identical to my interest in punk. I quickly realized I was going to enjoy myself.
Once inside the theater, a man dressed in a corset and boa grabbed a microphone and stood up in front of the screen. He surveyed the crowd for the moment, glaring at the everyone till the talking simmered down to a dull roar.
“How the FUCK is everyone tonite?????”, he screamed into the microphone. The crowd burst into applause, cat calls and whoops. “I’d like to give a warm and wet welcome to all you virgins out there! Stand up VIRGINS!!!!!”
I leaned over to one of my friends, “What does he mean by virgins?”
“It means if you have never been to the movie before, you have to stand up” my friend Eric whispered.
I nodded and promptly stood up.
Screams of “Virgin” went up all around me, a spotlight briefly pointed in my direction and I was showered with rice and squirts of water. Thoroughly soaked and covered in rice, the green dye I had used in my hair running down my face, I stood there laughing and before the spotlight left me, took a short bow and sat down.
“Who the fuck said you could sit down Virgin??? Stand the fuck back up!” the guy with the mic screamed.
I quickly took my place in the aisle again, trying not to laugh too hard.
The spotlight worked around the room and the humiliation was repeated over and over. At the end, the guy with the mic laughed maniacally.
“There, now you have all been fucked good and proper! Consider your cherries busted, Virgins!”
From that moment on, I was a fan!
Now, I know alot of people who decry the whole experience based on the film and its lack of a coherent story, nonsensical dialogue and overtly (for its time anyway) sexual themes. The “I’m too cool for the room” types who don’t go to “such things”, considering them to be crass or beneath them are the usual suspects who call the movie a waste of time. And I’m here to tell you: yes, the movie is awful! But in that awfulness, it somehow becomes awesome! The concept of “so bad it’s good” was made for just such an experience.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
The story is quite simple: boy proposes to girl at friends wedding. Girl accepts and they head off into the night to share the good news with their former teacher. Boy doesn’t understand how flat tires work and they become stranded outside a lonely castle. After getting soaked in the rain, they are invited into the castle and the shenanigans begin.
Cast of characters:
Frank N Furter – Diabolical mad scientist sweet transvestite from transexual transylvania. Looks good in drag, but very emotional and prone to temper tantrums and jealous rages that usually result in homicide. Is eventually murdered because his lifestyle was too extreme.
Riff Raff – House handyman. Has random incestuous elbow sex with his sister Magenta. He’s a little down because he thought you were the Candy Man. Huge inferiority complex that results in multiple homicides.
Magenta – A Domestic. Cackles alot. Has random incestuous elbow sex with her brother Riff Raff. Disapproves of Frank’s methods and wants nothing more than to return to their home planet.
Columbia – Fan of Frankie. Loves Eddie. Frankie kills Eddie. Sacrifices herself to try to save Frank. Who said love makes sense? Steals the show by being overbearingly cute.
Rocky – Frank’s creation with blond hair and a tan. He has the Charles Atlas Seal of Approval despite having half of Eddie’s brain and he’s good for Frankies “Tension”. Sleeps with Frankie and Janet before being murdered.
Eddie – Old lover of Frank’s and Columbia’s boyfriend. Has had half his brain removed to create Rocky but has enough energy to pop out of the meat locker for one song. Frank, who doesn’t like being upstaged, murders him. Later, what exactly did they have for dinner?? Dr. Scott is his Uncle.
Brad – ASSHOLE!! Mild mannered hero, engaged to Janet. Doesn’t plan ahead very well when it comes to road trips and doesn’t realize that castles don’t have phones! Seems very confused by the Transylvanian lifestyle but decides to play along good naturedly. Frankie fucks the shit out of him.
Janet – SLUT!! Naive and prone to fainting, she quickly adapts to the Tranylvanian lifestyle. Engaged to Brad. Is tricked into sex with Frank and realizes she wants to be dirty and sleeps with Rocky (despite her proclamations that she doesn’t like men with too many muscles) angering Frankie and confusing Brad further.
Dr Scott – Comes to the castle looking for his nephew Eddie. Rival scientist, working on similar undefined time warp space travel science that Frankie is working on. His science class is the whole reason Janet and Brad ever met. If it wasn’t for this wheelchair bound prick, this whole sorry excuse for a story would never have happened! Possibly a nazi.
Despite the incredibly muddled story and dubious character relationships and the campiness of the whole thing, dervitive of everything from Frankenstein films to red scare sci-fi of the 50’s and early 60’s, this movie and the broadway musical shines through it’s music and insane cast of characters. Classic tunes written by Richard O’Brien liven up the wooden and disjointed story to the point where the story is just a device to link you to the next song.
The best sequence in the whole film and musical is “Time Warp”. A raucous musical number involving almost the entire cast that tears the place apart and sets the stage for one of the best entrances ever in film. If you have never seen this, check below. When Tim Curry throws off the cape for the first time, for the uninitiated, this is a shocking reveal of the films true purpose and underlying storylines. From that point on, the movie becomes a tangled web of sex, murder, aliens and time travel.
What more could you possibly want?
Action! Drama! Love! Sex! Music! Oral Sex! Dancing! More Sex! Aliens! Re-animated monsters!
So anyway, back to friday night. We had planned this for weeks and managed to gather a small army to go see the live production. The last time I went to see this particular production, there had been a few a few people who dressed up, but nothing too serious. In fact, for an RHPS crowd, they were quite tame (well, aside from the innate crudeness of the callbacks). The people who dressed up for this show seemed to have all gone shopping at the same lingerie store. No one under 17 was admitted, according to the sign outfront which was a good thing since almost everyone who showed up were hanging out of their clothes.
Here are my friends from friday night:
On a side not, my friends Jared and James won the costume contest before the show started. Jared is in the lab coat and James is in the bowtie and jacket in the back, both doing their own versions of Brad Majors. The voting was by cheering, so we had planned to cheer as loud as possible, but when they hit the stage at the same time, the whole place stood up and screamed for them. I remember looking around thinking we couldn’t have planned that better if we tried. The place literally erupted and they were declared the winners.
And this was tame! Missing a couple people here, but you get the idea. The production of Rocky Horror was phenomenal! Their interpretation was heavily slanted towards the sexually explicit and for anyone in the crowd with even a light dash of homophobia, this would have been a very uncomfortable 2 hours of their life. The cast peppered their act with alot of groping (poor Janet alone was manhandled by the entire cast), tongue kissing, crotch grabbing, face planting into crotches, etc. You get the idea. These shenanigans prompted lots of cat calls and and cheering from the crowd.
Magenta was re-interpreted as a sort of dominatrix, constantly cracking a riding crop on the floor or peoples asses. Columbia was amazingly cute as usual. Riff Raff was more of a horny zombie with his face painted with a Joker red smile prompting one person to callback “Hey Riff, Why So Serious????” And Frankie…ah, dear old Frank. What can I say about him? He seemed to be channeling Paul Lynde and somehow giving that character sex appeal. He was amazing and, as any good Frank should, completely ruled that show.
All in all, it was great time and re-invigorated my former addiction to this experience. Upon leaving for the night, I made a promise to myself. It was time to head back down to Cambridge. It was time to head back to Church St and see the movie again and relive a little bit of my youth. Talk about time warps….
This is a shortened version of the song from the production I saw and I swear to you, sounds so much better live!!