It’s been hours since my co-worker, Eric Henderson, and I witnessed the incredible ride that is the Minneapolis production of the Rocky Horror Show — and we’re already talking about a second viewing.
It’s not only that it’s a phenomenal show, full of seriously hilarious moments and one-liners that would make an alien tranny blush, but to top it all off, this Minneapolis cast is in-cred-ible. So fantastic, in fact, that we felt it was too much goodness for one reviewer to tackle. That’s why we’re breaking the show down, corset-by-corset, to try and give you just an idea of what’s in store.
Sara: I’ll start. Eric, I know you felt the same, but can we please talk about how insane this local cast is? Who stole the show for you?
Eric: Dare I say anyone other than Dan Schblebbly? … What? Oh right, Don Shelby. Sorry, my tongue is still tied after seeing him in such randy context. Don takes on the role of the Narrator, who, as he even points out to the audience in the beginning, is meant to be a stentorian, pompous, arrogant windbag. It was brave of the Lab Theater and director-choreographer Andrew Rasmussen to cast the role so clearly off type. And it was heartening to see Shelb stretching his muscles. (His acting muscles.)
And speaking of which, I’ve got to say, I was so relieved that Andre Shoals was brave enough to tackle the role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter without resorting to simply needle-dropping memorable moments from Tim Curry’s iconic performance in the 1975 movie version (which, as I mentioned to you last night, I consider easily one of the five or so greatest performances in screen history). Shoals took the character off in an entirely new direction, one that emphasized, at turns, Frank’s wrath and vulnerability.
I wasn’t disappointed with anyone in the cast, but can we stop for a moment and talk about Molly Callinan?
Sara: Ohhh Molly Callinan — the woman dubbed sexy enough to turn a gay man straight and a straight woman bi-curious. If it wasn’t for the fact that she seemed to nail the evil laughter a bit too perfectly, and let’s be honest, somewhat scare the bejesus out of me, I would totally proclaim her my newest girl crush. And it’s not even that sexy of a role, which is maybe the best part. The Magenta in the film, played by Patricia Quinn, is more Carrot Top than over-the-top so I must say Callinan brilliantly makes the role her own – replacing awkward stares and lurking movements for spread-eagles and intense gazes.
Still, it’s difficult to choose just one or two standouts here – the entire cast made me gaga for the entire performance. Even the somewhat “boring” characters, Brad and Janet, were brought to life through the redonkulous talent of Reid Harmsen and Erin Capello, respectively. Capello, while already daring having to perform the entire show in a brassiere and granny panties, had a voice that truly made you thankful for Rasmussen’s decision to cast signers who can act, rather than vice versa. But then there’s the spunky, gothic sporty Spice powers of Kat Perkins as Columbia, the insane vocals of Randy Schmeling (Riff Raff) … I can’t. I can’t even list all the talent. And I haven’t even mentioned Jamecia Bennett yet, I mean, c’mon. It’s too much.
Before I pass out, let’s change topics. We were certainly rocking out in our seats, but we also saw some folks shifting awkwardly. (Not to mention the, ahem, older lady wearing a huge cross necklace sitting perhaps a bit too close to the pelvic-thrusting action.) What would you say to those, let’s say, not quite prepared to be Rocky Horror-ed?
Eric: That poor lady. Maybe she thought the Sunday evening show was the PG version? When I saw her (and it was well into the second act), that was the first time I thought to myself, “Why do a well nigh interactive version of Rocky Horror in the frigid hinterlands of Minnesota?” And when I say “frigid,” I’m not talking about the windchill.
But if the show has a takeaway maxim, it’s “Don’t dream it. Be it.” Judging by the looks on the faces of some audience members, it could very well be that Minnesotans need to hear that message more than most. Not, of course, that you or I are exactly above the fray. I think I can speak for us both when I say there’s at least one moment or two in the show we just weren’t ready for. The great thing about Rocky Horror in 2011 is that it’s already been ensconced in the pop culture canon for at least a generation now, so it’s got a dualistic quality of being both transgressive and familiar. It’s a trojan horse of kink, if you will. A primer for perversion.
But it’s also a ritual, and as any Lutheran who has scratched their head during a Catholic mass can tell you, it can be a little intimidating to be surrounded by people who know what they’re doing when you’re still trying to figure out whether to kneel, stand or speak in tongues. Rocky Horror’s staging puts the show into the audience, and while that’s a perfect choice for a show whose cult appeal rests on those interactions, it also can potentially make Rocky Horror newbies (i.e. virgins) feel a tad unprepared if they don’t know the script of callbacks. Luckily, the Lab appears to have supplied a few plants to make sure some of the best punchlines don’t go un-yelled. (If you want, feel free to check out some of these links on Google. I’d warn of suggestive language, but, c’mon, if you’ve made it this far into the review, you’ve Googled worse.)
I’ve got to ask, Sara. Do you regret that we didn’t sit in the spinny chairs?
Sara: First of all, “trojan horse of kink?” I totally want that on a T-shirt.
Secondly, I must say, I was a little disappointed to skip out on the spinny seats but then I saw the cast treat one woman’s hoo-hoo like a working fireplace. So it’s tough to say. While it was certainly entertaining to watch unsuspecting audience members be thrust (sometimes literally) into the show, I think there’s also something to be said about blending into the background and watching as a fly on the wall. The show certainly has a lot going on, in a good way, so there’s always more than enough eye-candy for eyeballing.
That said, there’s truly no bad seat in this new, revamped Lab. While certain shows have gone with the typical model of audience here, show in front. Rocky Horror puts the show in between two sets of the audience in a large-runway-esque kind of way. That leaves more than enough room for high-heel strutting – and I’m mostly referring to the men.
As you mentioned, the blocking and staging of the show is brilliant and I was highly impressed with the creative way they incorporated such memorable scenes from the film onto such a small stage (and as Rasmussen told me, a small budget). The costumes, the big red lips and oh my goodness, the adorable pink car, it was all just so perfect and spot-on.
As if it wasn’t already abundantly clear, it’s safe to say we both love, love, LOVED this show. Final thoughts: if you only see one show this year, this has to be it. Put on your craziest pair of patent leather heels, throw aside any judgment or prejudice and enjoy the ride.
Eric, final thoughts?
Eric: In short, I don’t care whether you jump to the left, step to the right or keep one foot planted on both sides of the Kinsey scale. Rocky Horror is the perfect way to jump start your Halloween spirit.
Rocky Horror Show Minneapolis runs until Oct. 31 at The Lab, 700 N. 1st St. Parental guidance is suggested and the show is restricted to those 12 and older. Tickets are on sale now. For more information or to buy tickets to the show, click here.