Not Just a Pelvic Thrust: Stratford’s Rocky Horror Picture Show Entertains

Members of the company in The Rocky Horror Show. Photography by

I have been a fan of Richard O’Brien’s 1975 cult-classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” for such a long time. I remember setting my sights on Tim Curry (who played Frank N. Furter) in fishnet stockings, smudged lipstick and eyeliner and feeling that twinge of excitement. I had no idea boys (other than my heart throb Robert Smith of The Cure who smudged his makeup proudly) could look so feverishly handsome this way and I had even less knowledge about what a sweet transvestite from Transylvania was all about. One thing that was crystal clear, I knew early in my life that I was not quite like the other girls and that was okay.

I had the pleasure to see a stage play of Rocky Horror before, which was really impressive. I bought my first pair of fishnets for the event, put on gobs of makeup and looked like a walking dominatrix.  I felt really uncomfortable until walking through the theatre doors and saw everyone was dressed in a similar fashion. For one night, no one was judging.  I could swoon over all the boys who looked liked girls, or maybe it was girls who looked like boys. It was hard to tell at times.  I hung up my fishnets that night after coming home with a little jump to the left and then a step to the right.

Fast forward to the present day. When I found out that the Stratford Festival was putting on the broadway musical at the Avon Theatre (produced by David Auster),  I was incredibly excited to see what this version would look, sound and feel like.  Of course after seeing the movie countless times (note the tv special in 2016 was cringe-worthy and I couldn’t even get through it) and getting a taste of a live theatre performance, it wasn’t just about the music, the characters really needed to WOW me.

I have a lot of praise to give, which I will go into more detail later, but unfortunately, it wasn’t a flawless performance in my eyes. Here’s why:

One of my favourite songs “Eddie’s Teddy” was a huge letdown. How can I describe Eddie’s (Trevor Patt) character? It felt like a fake orgasm.  Sorry, I had to be so blunt but where was the hyper-masculine, bad-boy, you’d never bring home to your parents that we all grew to love? He was lost in a sea of air guitars and broad way smiles. Nope, pass.

Then there was Rocky (George Krissa). I’m going to be superficial but it was something that really stood out. Rocky’s hair was poofy and kind of reminded me of Carrot Top. His physique was… perfection and even being higher up in the balcony section, I could count his glistening abs. His hair though was another story. I much rather preferred the slick down hair cut, just like what was in the movie. Character wise, I don’t think he was able to get the right balance of passive creature and aggressive. Plus during Touch-a-Touch-Me, he should have looked at Janet’s ta-ta’s with awe and lust, yet his facial expression told a different story. Instead it felt like “yeah i’ve seen these before, let’s move on.” For a song that is meant to be highly sensual and sexual, my libido fell flat.

Next, oh Janet! (Jennifer Rider-Shaw). Although her voice was angelic and her look was pure as snow, I didn’t really get the demure vibe even at the start of the show that Susan Sarandon (1975 movie) pulled off so wonderfully convincing. Also, where was that repressed sexual tension? It was really missing for me.

Then we have Columbia (Kimberly-Ann Truong). When I think of her, all I can envision is the phallic lollipop sucking. It was really distracting and not in a good way. I felt her role was really over the top, yet in the scenes where she should have been highly dramatic (when Eddie’s death was announced), it felt like she was holding back.  She hit that level of crazy that just didn’t work for me. Her whole character was really quite confusing to be honest, but despite those flaws, she had quite the voice on her!

Magenta (Erica Peck) didn’t really grab me. Magenta was the spitting image of Tim Burton’s ex-wife, Helena Bonham Carter, yet she kind of blended into the background with the phantoms. Plus where was her inappropriate lusty self? Lost in the shadows, I guess.

Dr. Scott…well this was played by the same person as Eddie, so I definitely didn’t enjoy this performance.

Now onto the positives!

Riff Raff (Robert Markus) and Frank N. Furter (Dan Chameroy) were incredible, beyond anything that I really could have dreamed of! You could see the passion and love in both of these characters.  To me, they were the stars of the show.

Brad (Sayer Roberts) also did a great job, exuding in overt geekiness and awkwardness, just like what I remember. Plus, what a voice!

The narrator (Steve Ross) was also enjoyable. His deep voice gave me chills and he never broke out of character once, even when he went down to his skivvies and fishnets!

The choreography (done by Donna Feore) for the dance scenes were wonderful. I loved hearing all my favourite songs with a few surprises along the way. The set, lighting, and costuming (kudos to: Michael Gianfrancesco, Dana Osborne, Michael Walton) were done really well. I have to find out where Frank N Furter gets his lingerie. Ooh la la! Also, despite a lot of the character flaws, the vocals of everyone really blew me away, especially Frank N Furter’s solo part of “I’m Going Home.” I almost shed a tear.

I loved the audience hecklers who blurted out random comments throughout the show. They had the audience in stitches. Be warned that they don’t hold back. You will hear lots of profanity! Nothing is off limits, including a quick shout-out for the legalization of marijuana, which fit in rather perfectly since it was actually legalized on the day we went; Oct. 17, 2018 and some mentions of sexual positions that you may or may not have tried already at home.  There are audience alerts up mentioning mature themes and offensiveness, so if you tend to trail along the overly-sensitive path, this show is NOT for you.

Despite some criticisms, I really loved the show. I understand the blood, sweat, and tears that go into making these productions and I can appreciate that they didn’t want to stick to the film entirely and used their own creative juices to add a bit more flair.

If you are looking for a fun-filled, gender-bending good time, then I would highly suggest you book your tickets to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show. They have added a number of new shows, but they sell out quickly, as does everything in Stratford because this is truly world-class entertainment.

The show runs at Stratford Festival until Nov. 25, 2018. Tickets start at $25 and are available online.

Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann (Members of the company in The Rocky Horror Show)