A rollicking, retro 'Rocky Horror Show'

A rollicking, retro ‘Rocky Horror Show’
By Joan Anderman, Globe Correspondent, 10/04/97

Consider what’s hip: 1970’s schlock-chic, nerds who sing, jocks in skirts, and high camp, which never ever goes out of style. Boston Rock Opera couldn’t have picked a better year for a revival of ”The Rocky Horror Show,” 1974’s sci-fi horror spoof that established a new zenith or nadir, depending on your taste, for kinky kitsch. Devotees dressed in outrageous drag still line up for famously interactive midnight screenings of ”The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

They weren’t lined up opening night at Tower Auditorium; the house was sparsely populated. But it’s a good bet the small, appreciative audience will spread the word about BRO’s thoroughly entertaining production, a benefit for the AIDS Action Committee featuring actors, musicians, and designers from the Boston arts community.

Whether you see it as some sort of stoned paranoid fantasy or a tongue-in-cheek calling card for sexual freedom, or prefer to contemplate the darker issues of repression and temptation suggested by the narrative, ”The Rocky Horror Show” belongs to the character of Frankenfurter. One can only imagine what he wears to breakfast, but on the cartoony, bloodstained set Ryan Landry embodied the ultimate Amazonian transvestite from hell: a dazzling mutant offspring of Marilyn Manson and Cher in a bouffant black shag, platform boots, tattered fishnets, G-string, bustier, and supermodel makeup. And this decadent specimen can sing his very visible butt off, like a big, nasty Broadway baby with a bona fide emotional subtext.

Like their master, the Transylvanians rule in this staging. From the irresistible ”Time Warp” to the bittersweet final ”Floorshow, ” Rocky Horror’s X-rated Greek chorus of Day-Glo freaks spewed an endearing mix of spunk and perversion that cuts to the soul of this show, which, with its plucky ’50s-style songs and fiendish themes, has always struck me as a Satanic reading of ”Bye Bye Birdie.”

Bill Hough (of the punk-glam band Garage Dogs) as the pasty, sunken-eyed servant Riff Raff was ghoulish grace-in-motion: limping and lurching with a dancer’s prowess and belting like a classically trained punk. The crack six-piece band was another highlight. Ingeniously tucked away in a screened dungeon under the castle stairs, they achieved that elusive state of refined and raucous rock-opera grace.

The Uber-goons Brad and Janet are significantly less colorful roles than the Transylvanians. But David Ilku (of The Dueling Bankheads comedy duo), and Kaci Carr (lead singer for the rock band Herod) demonstrated vocal and theatrical skills as understated and unassertive as their characters’ personalities.

Intermittent speaker buzz and problems with volume when the performers weren’t using their microphones were a distraction. Like its past productions of ”Jesus Christ Superstar” and ”Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” BRO more than made up for low-budget production values with high-octane performances.

This story ran on page C03 of the Boston Globe on 10/04/97. © Copyright 1997 Globe Newspaper Company.