They started hootin’ and hollerin’ the minute Bill Schmidt came out to do the pre-show speech. And verbal audience participation continued throughout the opening night of Cygnet Theatre’s raucous, raunchy version of “Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show.”
Narrator (or “Criminologist,” if you’re the type who refers to theater programs) Jim Chovick announces, “You are part of the cast -- and we have rules.”
“Boo!” says an audience member.
“F*ck you,” says Chovick.
It’s that kind of show. And one of the rules, he announces, is “Try to be clever, not stupid.”
It’s been 43 years since the musical – a spoof of B-movies and bad sci-fi flicks – first played in England, and 41 since the critically blasted film overcame those dopey critics to become a worldwide cult favorite. By now, audience participation is part of the show (Don’t worry, if you’re a Rocky Horror virgin, there will be plenty of people in the audience happy to demonstrate for you).
The plot? Nerdy Brad (Jacob Caltrider) and fiancee Janet (Amy Perkins) suffer a tire blowout on a deserted road, and end up walking back to the castle they saw “a few miles back.”
They get there to find weird goings-on, presided over by “Sweet Transvestite” (and mad scientist) Frank ‘N’ Furter (Cygnet artistic director Sean Murray), resplendent in pounds of makeup, holey black fishnet stockings, sparkly black heels and a black corset.
You’ll see echoes of “Young Frankenstein,” as Frank vivifies a lifeless mass who turns out to be Rocky (Danny Hansen), with one of the more spectacular bodies (nearly naked) seen on local stages in many a year. And of the recently-presented “The Wizard of Oz,” as Frank clicks his heels together three times in “I’m Going Home.”
Murray (who also serves as director) has said his intent is to return to the stripped-down, grittier feel of the original stage show, with its rock ‘n’ roll sound.
The five-man band led by Musical director Patrick Marion keeps the joint hoppin’ with songs like the iconic “Time Warp” (jump to the left, jump to the right, etc.) and Brad’s classy “Dammit, Janet” (I love you).
Murray’s Frank ‘N’ Furter is a hoot, and so is the rest of his terrific cast, including Frank’s creepy servants Riff Raff (Michael Cusimano) and Magenta (Bets Malone). Malone doubles as Usherette, who headlines the opening and closing of the show with a wild and woolly “Science Fiction/Double Feature” piece.
Caltrider’s dweeby Brad and Perkins’ sweet Janet are a kick as the human intruders who lose their clothes but learn a few things about themselves in Frank’s weird castle.
Solid contributions are also made by Steve Gouveia in dual roles. As Frank and Columbia’s previous lover Eddie, he’s been rendered brain damaged by Frank’s experiments and now sounds like, well, like Elvis in “Hot Patootie.” He’s also a gas as Dr. Scott, the paraplegic science tutor.
It’s all crazy, and the tech elements – Andrew Hull’s set design, Chris Rynne’s bright lighting, Jennifer Brawn Gittings’ wild costumes and Chris Luessmann’s goofy sound design – add to the sought-for cheesy impression.
So come on, wriggle into that bustier and those holey fishnets and get ready to do the “Time Warp” again – or for the first time.
“Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show” plays through May 7, 2016 at Cygnet Theatre, 4040 Twiggs Street in Old Town.
Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m. (7 and 10 p.m. beginning April 15); Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m. (matinees through April 9 only); Sunday at 2 and 7 p.m.
Tickets: (619) 337-1525 or cygnettheatre.com