There much “antici………..pation” at Kordazone Theatre this month. From October 13 to 28, Korda is hosting a monumental production of “The Rocky Horror Show,” marking the 50th anniversary of the genre-bending show. In a coincidence of milestones, this production also celebrates the 20th season of Korda Artistic Productions itself.
“Rocky was Korda’s first full-scale production 20 years ago,” said Jeff Marontate, the director of the anniversary production. “Feeling a bit nostalgic, and proud that our company has survived this long, we felt it would be a fun way to mark our anniversary.”
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, “The Rocky Horror Show” remains a cultural tour de force that has stood the test of time. When it first premiered in London in 1973, Richard O’Brien’s groundbreaking musical introduced audiences to the tale of Brad and Janet, a naive couple who find themselves stranded in the eerie mansion of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a flamboyant and sexually liberated scientist from another planet. Through a narrative steeped in rock ‘n’ roll, science fiction tropes, and a liberal sprinkling of sexual innuendo, the show challenges traditional mores while entertaining with songs that have since become classics, such as “The Time Warp” and “Sweet Transvestite.”
Over the past five decades, “The Rocky Horror Show” has morphed from a British theater curiosity to an international sensation. Thanks to its 1975 film adaptation, midnight screenings have become a cult ritual, with interactive audience participation enhancing the experience. The musical’s unique blend of camp, horror, and comedy has made it a cross-generational favorite, tackling themes of sexual and gender liberation in a way that resonates as much today as it did in the ’70s. In its 50th year, the musical continues to be more than just a play or a film—it has evolved into a sanctuary where people, adorned in anything from fishnets to formal attire, can openly express their identities.
“The Rocky Horror Show” has long held a certain magnetic pull for Marontate. His first brush with the flamboyant production came in the form of a photonovel at a Coles bookstore. He then acquired the movie cast album, “which I played until the vinyl must have been worn thin.” For Marontate, Rocky Horror was not just entertainment; it was transformative. “At 16, it was taboo, with its kinky and queer culture and bizarre but devoted audience; now, I find it a little quaint but still sexy and lots of fun,” he shared.
Bringing this eccentric work back to life comes with its set of challenges. Marontate, keenly aware of the high standards set by the iconic film version, grappled with honoring tradition while incorporating originality. “Finding the balance can be a challenge, but a fun one,” he said.
His collaboration with Tech Director Eric Tulp played a crucial role. “Eric has attended almost all the rehearsals and has worked closely with me to adapt my ideas of the set and effects into something workable and achievable,” Marontate praised. The result is a set that promises to evoke both gasps and laughter from the audience.
Matthew Vriesen, both the Music Director and the actor playing Brad Majors, enriches the performance with his dual role. “Matt is an incredible Music Director. His orchestrations and harmonies are beyond expectation,” Marontate gushed.
An element of “The Rocky Horror Show” that has never dulled is its propensity for pushing boundaries. As Marontate observed, “We have played up the silly comedy, and made our sexy scenes a bit naughtier.” The show has evolved into a symbol of queer pride and inclusivity, offering a “safe walk on the wild side” even today.
Marontate is passionate about the multidimensional facets of “Rocky Horror.”
“I think parody can be an excellent way to celebrate what you love, and Rocky does that!” Marontate effused. He further highlighted the clever nods to classics like Frankenstein, the touchstones that elevate the play above a mere lampoon to a loving tribute.
At its heart, “The Rocky Horror Show” is a time capsule, reflecting the paradoxical essence of the ’70s—a decade marked by both glam rock and growing awareness of LGBTQ+ issues. Marontate argues that while some of the original references may seem out-of-date, the themes themselves are still compelling and even urgent. “The LGBT+ themes are still relevant; queer people around the world still face obstacles, even here in Canada,” he shared, citing recent disturbing instances of prejudice. “Rocky offers a safe haven for everyone queer or otherwise, or at least everyone willing to celebrate differences.”
The work’s contribution to Kordazone Theatre’s 20th season carries a special significance, as Marontate observes. “It’s a celebration of Korda’s survival for two decades,” he commented. “It fits our mandate to present, among other things, plays that are queer or campy, and is likely to sell well, so we can pay our bills!”
It’s no easy feat to toe the line between homage and innovation, a challenge Marontate readily acknowledges. “The challenge for the director is to respect the fans and still understand that a script is made to be reinterpreted. A movie is always solid because it never changes and is therefore dependable, but a stage play should be different with each new production,” he explained.
Easter eggs and nods to the original production do abound, according to the director. The traditional prop bags filled with goodies that allow for an indoor rainstorm will still be part of the experience. Dr. Scott remains “heavily Germanic,” and Brad and Janet’s “charming underwear” makes its requisite appearance.
“We want audience participation, but with some restrictions, particularly regarding the use of food props,” Marontate cautioned.
When probed about his personal favorite number from the musical, Marontate offered an answer that is both populist and unexpected. While admitting his fondness for crowd-pleasers like “The Time Warp” and “Sweet Transvestite,” he also expresses love for the more subdued numbers. “‘Science Fiction Double Feature’ is a favorite of mine, as are two songs that were cut from the film: ‘Once In A While’ and ‘Superheroes.'”
But perhaps the most cherished aspect of his directorial journey is the people he’s sharing it with. “The biggest reward is working with such a great bunch of actors and artists,” Marontate confessed. “The next biggest, I suspect, will be hearing and seeing the audience’s reaction to our production.”
There will most likely be a sense of unity—a diverse audience spanning multiple generations, all bound by the inclusive embrace of “The Rocky Horror Show.”
“It’s a safe ‘walk on the wild side’ that still empowers queer people,” as Marontate put it, summing up not just the essence of “Rocky Horror,” but perhaps also its enduring magic.
The 50th-anniversary production of “The Rocky Horror Show” will run October 13, 14, 15, 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, and 28 at Kordazone Theatre in Windsor, Ontario. Mark your calendars; this promises to be a spectacle that transcends time, space, and the ordinary limits of stage and song. Visit www.kordazone.com for more.