Tuesday, Nov 13, 2018
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'Rocky Horror Show' hits stage at Toledo Repertoire Theater

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    Dylan Coale stars as Frank in 3B Productions' presentation of 'The Rocky Horror Show.'

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Back in early '70s, when The Rocky Horror Show was a cult London stage hit turned Broadway flop (it ran just 45 performances in New York), Richard O’Brien's camp confection was the epitome of subversive, a glam rock homage to science fiction, B movies and sexual nonconformity.

Then came the 1975 film starring Tim Curry, soon to become a staple on the midnight movie circuit, with audience participation as performance art. People weren’t just there to see it; they came dressed to be it.

How little has changed in four decades.

Last month, Waterville’s 3B Productions mounted a revival of its own previous year’s production — the exact same cast — at the Maumee Indoor Theatre, complete with a midnight performance. This was no place for the meek, given an audience of 200 decked out in more fishnets, sequins, and mascara than the performers onstage.

What is Rocky Horror, after all, if not an excuse to get your drag on?

This weekend, the production moves to the Toledo Repertoire Theater for a trio of performances, and if you like your musical comedy bawdy and a little bent, consider it worth your time.

The absurd plot is the least of the show’s delights: An imperious alien arrives on earth in the guise of Frank (Dylan Coale), a transvestite with a regal attitude. He’s surrounded by equally quirky servants, and ensconced in a creepy castle at the end of a dark road.

That’s where newly engaged Texans Brad Majors and Janet Weiss (Bradley King and Courtney Austin) stumble upon the visitors while seeking help with a flat tire. Before the night is over, the wholesome pair will have their moral compass ripped right off the dial.

There’s also the matter of Rocky (Tanner DuVall), the Frankenstein-as-Adonis that Frank is in the process of bringing to life when Brad and Janet arrive. Let’s just say Boris Karloff never had such a six-pack.

Some things have changed at the live shows over the years; there were no cell phone flashlights or glow sticks back in the day. And a midnight crowd that once skewed largely to the college set has gotten younger. At the midnight Maumee staging, the hip high school contingent held its own.

Rocky Horror is an exercise in amplitude: Everything is go big or go home, from Richard O'Brien’s infectious songs (“Time Warp,” “I'm Going Home”) to the absence of a fourth wall. The interaction between cast and audience — lots of off-color improvised quips — compensate for what the show lacks in production values. The set is functional, if short on Gothic flair, and surely not all of the lighting miscues were intentional.

This staging compensates with vibrant costumes and manic performances. King and Austin ooze ripe-for-ravaging innocence as Brad and Janet, DuVall exudes the manic energy of a Fidget Spinner in a Speedo, and if the singing here ranges from sublime to scary, music director Janine Baughman ably corrals this congress of feral cats.

Community theater has never been about polish so much as pluck. The cast seems to be having the time of its life (Dylan Coale is a delightful ringmaster), and director Joe Barton gives his actors the freedom to roam from stage to audience and back again.

This is about as interactive as live theater gets, which makes it both a little obnoxious and somehow essential.

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