By John Dwyer
If the leaves are falling, and cornstalks are sported in local shopkeeper’s doorways, and the temperatures are cooling, it is safe to say the temps are rising on the stage of the Bucks County Playhouse with the seasonal presentation of “The Rocky Horror Show.“ Hunter Foster directs a show with a cast of Broadway’s best, and the show never fails to please.
For those of us who are part of a time warp, there are memories of the original incarnation. Whether you were at the stage performance or, like an even greater number, the cult movie hit that never seemed to leave the 8th Street Playhouse, where kids from all over the tri-state area dressed up, lip synced and yelled at the screen, you were part of a phenomenon. The interactive show took off because of the 8th Street Players, who dressed up and shouted ad libs at various moments in the film. They were featured in the movie “Fame,” and that helped spread the popularity of both the screen showings and the stage play.
Like “Christmas Carol” is to Christmas, “Rocky Horror” is to Halloween. It is fun, and there is even, buried in all the hoopla, a message. The plot is that prim, proper and recently engaged lovebirds Brad Majors and Janet Weiss are stranded in the rain with flat tire near Denton, Ohio. They walk to the nearest castle, which turns out to be the home of Doctor Frank N. Furter. This last sentence gives you all you need to know — castles in Denton and doctors are named after a weenie.
The whole show is a spoof, based on ’50s science fiction and ’70s glam. It revels in atmospherics. Let me quote myself from last year: “It does not need to make a whole lot of sense. It revels in an ‘anything goes’ playfulness and sexual bravado. Think of David Bowie and Mick Jagger producing an adult version of ‘Pee Wee’s Playhouse,’ and this is their Halloween special.”
Mason Alexander Park is the quintessential sweet transvestite transsexual from Transylvania, Dr. Frank N. Furter. His pansexual patter couldn’t be better. He struts the stage and engages the audience with a leering sexiness. Zach Cossman, familiar to audiences at Bucks County Playhouse for his roles in “Buddy Holly” and “Million Dollar Quartet,” is swell as Brad Majors. His “Once in a While,” the show’s most romantic and serious song, was lovely and stood on its own as something special. Alyse Alan Louise is delightful as Janet Weiss. Funny and perky, with a beautiful voice as well, she transitions well from schoolmarm to hot patootie Janet.
Trent Saunders amazed me as Riff Raff. His voice goes so high and it just glides there, and he has no joints. His movements are fluid and rhythmic. His Riff Raff looked like Beetlejuice. Listening and looking at this man is a guaranteed smile.
Michael Thomas Holmes is chameleon-like as the narrator and Dr. Scott. If the program did not tell you that this was the same person, you would swear there were different actors for each role, so distinct are these characterizations. As the narrator, he is totally at ease in engaging the audience, which is one of the keys to success in this role.
Alec Irion as Eddie, Tim Rogan as Rocky, Christina Sajous as Magenta, and Daisy Wright as Columbia are all excellent, serving up their parts and solos with the required sex and raunchiness and star power that is needed for an intergalactic science fiction musical. Hunter Foster directs with aplomb and has added some timely flourishes. No one does better than Foster in finding the core of a show and mining it for all its worth.
And the show’s message? During “The Floor Show” scene, we are urged to “Don’t Dream It, Be It.” That is something we all should take home with us to make a currently “Rocky” world a better one.
“The Rocky Horror Show” runs through Oct. 28, and tickets can be purchased online.
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