Sins in heels
The Rocky Horror Show opens in the CFA
Published: Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 24, 2013 20:10
Hell awaits a wholesome couple as they wander into a deliciously sinful castle.
Brad Majors and Janet Weiss have come out of desperation for shelter from an ongoing storm but have unknowingly entered a world more extreme than the natural disaster that drove them there.
Eager phantoms litter the glamorous stage as the couple tries to back away from this madness. Just as they almost reach their exit, they are pulled back in, as the master of the house appears behind them.
As Dr. Frank N. Furter begins to belt out his opening number, “Sweet Transvestite,” one of his legs, adorned with fishnet stockings, peaks out from his floor-length, sequined black cape.
Something ticks in the viewers’ minds – they become aware of the level of spectacular shock and glam they are about to witness.
The Rocky Horror Show opened last Friday at the Center For the Arts (CFA) as a student and professional staff production led by Guest Director Josh Walden and Music Director Nathan Matthews. The UB cast executed the shock theatrics and culture of the original production, a science fiction and horror parody, seamlessly, while exploring the darker side of human nature in their own performances.
The Rocky Horror Show, which first appeared on stage in 1973, has developed an underground culture of passionate fans ever since. The story follows Brad and Janet as they meet Dr. Furter. They arrive on the day he reveals his creation of life, Rocky, and spirals into a world of sin.
“Midnight showings” of the production feature the original 1975 movie adaptation playing in the background while the live cast of performers acts out the production in front of the screen; they are known as the “shadow cast.”
Over time, traditions have formed around this movie. Members of the audience throw props on the stage at specific times and shout lines that bounce off the actors’ performances. People bring squirt guns to create “rain” in the theater while Brad and Janet are running through the storm.
Though the performance at the CFA did not allow props, this did not stop some audience members from participating in the show. For example, attendees chanted the now-classic “a**hole” line at Brad. New lines are welcome, too, as long as the audience doesn’t mess up the delivery.
Walden’s vision of Rocky Horror was a “hell house” with Dr. Frank N. Furter trying to coerce Brad, Janet and the audience into his life of indulgent pleasures. The audience members who shouted lines were “sinners” too and became a part of the hell house.
The 11 p.m. showing was when the “true form of Rocky Horror came out” from the audience and cast, according to Zach Snyder, a senior musical theater major who played the lead, Dr. Furter. The shout-outs were livelier and the energy from the audience drove the cast to put on a more inspired show, he said.
“I like that Rocky Horror is getting this cult following that is continuing to build and build and grow and just change,” Snyder said. “People come and they just enjoy Rocky Horror for what it’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to be a musical that you just rock out to, enjoy, take it for what it’s worth, to live and breathe and be.”
Taylor Gray, a senior musical theater major who played Riff-Raff, a minion-like figure to Dr. Furter, said he noticed someone in the audience essentially in underwear dancing to the well-known classic “The Time Warp” with the cast.
Though Rocky Horror is supposed to be a fantastical experience, it comes with subtle messages of manipulation by human yearnings.
“If you were to get to what I think is the actual message of the show, it’s to show that everyone has these desires,” said Gabrielle Gorman, a senior musical theater major who played Eddie, whom singer Meat Loaf famously portrayed in the film version. “One of the lines is, ‘There’s no crime giving yourself over to pleasure, is there?’ So where do you draw the line at? At what point are you sinning?”
Each leading role was given a sin and a monster to portray, while each phantom was assigned a drug to simulate.
Snyder is the epitome of lust and the monster of Dracula. Dr. Furter is Brad and Janet’s predator and is trying to convert their innocent lives to sinful ones.
As master of the house, Snyder’s Dr. Furter changed his voice to manipulate everyone in his domain. To appeal to Janet, he would command her in his manly voice, but while trying to seduce Brad, Snyder would speak femininely. He does this dressed in a glitzy unitard and dramatic makeup – not as a woman or a man.
Just as Gorman plays Eddie, Snyder’s character is meant to be sexually ambiguous. Though Dr. Furter calls himself a transvestite, the audience may take him either way. All the characters lose these generic gender labels to completely embody the entity of their sins.
It was up to each performer to decide how they would portray their individual sins and monsters.
The audience didn’t have to be a fan of Rocky Horror to enjoy the beauty of the production. Cult followings traditionally call viewers who have never experienced the live show “virgins.”
Courtney Kingston, a sophomore communication and international studies major, was a Rocky Horror Show virgin.