After shivering months with antici………(say it!) pation, Playhouse Merced opened up their production of The Rocky Horror Show this past Friday night. I had only seen the stage version of this iconic show once a few years ago. Had seen bits of the movie, and have been rehearsing my own local production of it for the past month and a half. Needless to say, I was pumped to see the intimacy of the Playhouse stage meet with Richard O’ Brien’s show. What the audience received was an enjoyable production with successful concepts and overall performance. The Rocky Horror Show is a must-see for Merced and surrounding audiences!
This is the normal part of the review where I give you the basic plot and story overview; but its Rocky… there really is no point to the show. We meet “boy/girl-next door” couple Brad (A**hole!) and Janet (Slut!) as their travels mislead them to Frank N’ Furter’s castle. After meeting the caretaker of the castle, Riff Raff, and his orderlies, Magenta and Columbia, Brad and Janet end up being part of a huge romp in the castle involving bringing the Creature (Rocky) to life, Riff Raff’s take over, and Eddie (SHHH!!) becoming unfrozen only to lead to his death. Crazy crazy stuff that was staged well and brought to a vibrant life by director Rob Hypes and company.
(L to R: Corey Strauss (Riff Raff), Christopher Volkerts (Frank N’ Furter), Dianne Kocher (Magenta); Photo credit: Playhouse Merced, The Fresno Bee)
Starting with our beloved couple, Brad (Matt Capron) and Janet (Melissa Beckwith) who made an adorable little pair. Beckwith did well with her part in “Superheroes”. Capron was a bit shaky in his opening night performance; but that could have been due to the audience participation that was unexpected! Capron’s “Dammit Janet,” was quite enjoyable though; and he and Beckwith had undeniable chemistry. A spicy Liz Phillips (Columbia) had some great moments in “Time Warp” and “Eddie’s Teddy.” Dianne Kocher (Magenta) along with Corey Strauss (Riff Raff) were a confident scene-stealing duo. Kocher’s vocals in “Time Warp,” were hot hot hot and Strauss had a demented, comical geniusness written all over his performance that worked very well.
To prove that just because you have a small part does not mean you are insignificant, G.B. Blackmon III (Eddie) stole the Act 1 spotlight with “Hot Patootie.” Blackmon’s soaring vocals and presence alone were enough to carry the energetic cast for as long as the music was playing. I especially enjoyed John Callihan (Narrator/Dr. Scott). The Narrator carries the show (describe your balls!) in a very heavy, pendulant way. Callihan worked extremely well off the rambunctious audience, and was just as effective as Dr. Scott in “Eddie’s Teddy.”
However, the top notch applause go to the touching performance Christopher Volkerts (Frank N’ Furter). Volkerts’ stamina to take on this challenging role with such an itimate space and cast as well as looking gorgeous in Dianne Kocher’s costumes compliment his leadership in this show. Volkerts’ does the O’Brien music justice in “Sweet Transvestite,” “Don’t Dream It, Be It,” and especially strong in the moving “I’m Going Home.” Volkerts’ brought a very personal, dark persona to Frank that most audiences don’t see. Volkerts’ gave his Frank growth, a true and noticeable character arc, and his emotional “I’m Going Home,” brought a very real appreciation to his role.
The Rocky Horror Show is worth your time and money. Support this great production in any way you can because it rocks. It is a hard working cast on all accounts. The Phantom ensemble is fun to watch and hear; the characters are on great display, and at the end of the day a night of theatre is better than doing anything else. Go call the box office and buy a ticket or two for this show. It has the Charles Atlas’ seal of approval so go see this show!