Review by Martha Heimberg
Talk about twist n shout.
Saturday night’s audience, at Dallas Theater Center’s perfectly posh production of The Rocky Horror Show were dancing in the lobby of The Kalita Humphreys Theater even before the doors opened to see Richard O’Brien’s original 1973 musical version of the 1975 film that has become a cult classic.
Director Blake Hackler’s program notes instruct us to “be stupid, “ and just enjoy hanging out together and throwing popcorn at the glitzy actors in this spoof of 1930’s horror and sci-fi movies, and their bizarre sexual posturing.
For sure, Hackler’s high-energy, marvelously textured Rocky is crazy fun, from the opening welcome to the finale wherein all us witnesses packed into the historic 400-seat theater do the Time Warp again, along with the 12-member glam cast and Kwinton Gray’s fine five-member band, doubling as costumed phantoms, while prowling the stage playing the score full-blast.
The smiling Narrator (a sly, confident David Lugo, channeling Joel’s Gray’s Cabaret host and a dash of Stephen Colbert with his writers back on the job) assures us, “Texas hasn’t shut us down yet!” Did our embarrassing governor really think he could pass a law banning drag shows? Has Austin lost its weirdness?
In case you’re a RHS virgin, as I was, the plot is about what happens when young sweethearts Brad (a comically innocent Noah Randall) and Janet (Christina Austin Lopez, fluttering and panting, by turns) have a flat tire in a thunderstorm and end up in the spooky mansion of transvestite scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Dr F is the famed svelte, fierce, alluring L. Walter, singing in three ranges, and stalking his castle on the best legs in Dallas. Other bizarre folks show up, too. That’s it.
That’s all you need to make elaborate nonsense and a score filled with kickin’ athletic dance numbers choreographed by Kelsey Milbourn, and sing-along rock songs that make us laugh and stomp while pretending to shock us.
It all happens on Natalie Rose Mabry’s roomy set design, featuring an enormous tower made from huge Erector Set pieces. (Yes, kids in the 50s played with such toys!) Mabry did all the video designs, as well. Screens on both sides of the tower show stadium-style close-ups of actors, and hilarious videos of Ken and Barbie dolls show doing sexually explicit stuff. Dolls aside, this show is for adults.
The curious must climb “up to the lab/to see what’s on the slab.” Meet Rocky, certainly no stumbling, stitched-together creep, but, as embodied here by Alex Heika, a strapping, muscled, willing partner to any and all. Heika’s solo tap-dance, effortless push-ups and handstands fired up an already heated audience.
The whole ensemble doesn’t miss a beat, bump, or grind. Liz Mikel turns her humor and voice on high as Eddie, the Elvis-style singer, and shows she knows an alien from a thigh-high boot as Dr. Scott. Zachary J. Willis is a touching and virile Columbia, tossed aside for a new model, and Alex Organ’s hapless Riff Raff is a hoot.
Ari Futon’s hyper-bling costumes, stunning wigs and makeup design deserve a standing O of their own. You can see those eyelashes flutter from the back row. The cast and ensemble have multiple costume changes, and they always glow together like stars and streetlights. Textures vary from velvet to lace to glossy metal. Sequins, leather and beads are all over every hip and torso. Garters, fishnet stockings and hand whips glitter with gold and silver trappings. And everything fits. Some serious tada.
Whether you’re human or alien, a virgin or a longtime fan, these are the actors you want to hang with in any space. Costumes encouraged but not required. Oh, go ahead.
The Rocky Horror Show runs through October 29. For tickets, check dallastheater.org or call 214-522-8499.