Fun and Campy ROCKY HORROR at Bucks County Playhouse

by Kevin Korowicki

It is not really “theatre”, more like a “live event”; “an experience”, an “interactive human (well that’s pushing it) happening”. ROCKY HORROR SHOW at the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, PA admits to the premise. It’s pushing the envelope of staged presentation with over the top simulated sexual acts, bizarre but enjoyable melodies of music accompanied by no sense lyrics and outlandish fetish style costumes boarding on the obscene. Nevertheless, it all seemed “normal”. ROCKY has gotten to be so main stream that even the two elderly couples who I spied in the back of the theatre enjoyed the show. Barbara, a nice white haired, mild mannered, proper lady told me that the show was “something you have to see…once”. I think the key for her was “once”. But, the key for Bucks County Playhouse was that she stayed throughout the entire show and actually enjoyed it. Vern, her senior counterpart, expressed how simply “marvelous” it was to see the hard work and energy expended on stage. So, it was an “experience” for the senior set; what about others? Patty and Leslie, both who drove the 45 minutes from Bridgewater, NJ to see the show, loved it. “Rice is everywhere, down my shirt…etc.” exclaimed Patty. And Leslie said it was “excellent”.

Leo Altafine as Riff Raff and Taylor Webster as Magenta in Bucks County Playhouse production of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW playing through Halloween.

ROCKY HORROR is not meant to be a feel good show; it’s meant to push boundaries. However, as previously noted, the show doesn’t seem as radical as probably it once did. I don’t think you are going to see any theatre do this show in July or around Easter or Passover or Christmas. It has a place, sort of like hearing the “Monster Mash” on the radio in October. And if it is delegated to that time slut, sorry, slot for its remaining years, so be it. I know Bucks County Playhouse will play it for years to come as a result. Actually, this is the first year, according to Stage Manager Meghan Connolly, that ROCKY HORROR had its own place in the stable of shows at the old Mill theatre. This permitted BCP to build its own unique set for the show, instead of moving around a previously arranged Broadway style musical show they were already producing.
The set was fun and over the top; black and purple and multi leveled. The Narrator, played by the always popular, Bob Marcus, was elevated on a high platform to the side of the stage. This gave Bob the ability to be “above it all” and provided him with great range and arching water gun shots which soaked the crowd for close to a third of the 400 seat theatre. Wait, you don’t know about the water, the rice, the toast and newspapers (which the theatre sells as “suppliers” for those who came without), then you are a “VIRGIN”. Seeing ROCKY HORROR, the movie, is not the same as seeing it in person, even though your personal interaction is “required”. It is dinner theatre at its best, without the rubber chicken.

The show’s director, Stephen Casey, did a nice job with the overall production. He seemed to be in charge of everything for this particular show. The costumes were slutty bedroom with that dead zombie look and feel, the cast was well cast and each actor contributed his or her own flair to the production. Casey’s biggest accomplishment seemed to be the well coordinated “movement” of the show; there are no real dance numbers in ROCKY HORROR, but the choreographed hand gestures, leg kicks, pelvic thrustings, and tongue lickings worked. It gave ROCKY HORROR its “voo-doo charm”.

Chris Baron, who I thought was wonderful in BCP’s MAN OF LAMANCHA as the Padre, was his own Dr. Frank N Furter. He didn’t try to play it like the movie, thank Goodness. There is nNothing worse than imitating someone else’s performance on stage. In real life, Chris is a soft spoken gentleman; on stage; he becomes the cross dressing, transsexual Furter. The difference is staggering and a tribute to his ability as an actor to push the limits of his skills and make you believe. I had forgotten he was the Padre in the previous production, which I thought was great. I was not locked into a sense of what he was or what he was capable of during ROCKY HORROR. Cheers to Chris. Peter Martino played a nerdy Brad Majors and his Frankie Valli voice overtones to all his songs brought an out loud laugh from me and a majority of the audience. Lauren Renahan was the innocent Janet Weiss until she transforms herself into the little bad girl she really wants to be. I found myself watching her even when she wasn’t the focus of the particular moment of the show. Lauren gave a captivating performance regardless of what little she was wearing.
Joe Naticchione was the buffed Atlas of a man, Rocky and had the women in the audience cooing. David Jack sat in the wheel chair as a crazed Dr. Scott. Leo Atlafine was a fine Rif Rif. Nicole Calabrese was a bright eyed, wide smiling Honey of a Columbia. Her soft shoe little number, along with her quality voice was a pleasure to watch and listen to. But my favorite was the tiny in stature, but larger than life in voice and stage presence, Taylor Webster, who as Magenta, has you in the palm of her hand from the opening number of the show until she closes it with the same sultry “Drive In Picture Show”.

The Playhouse continues with ROCKY HORROR with multi shows between now and Halloween. I frankly don’t know how they, as Vern said in the beginning, could have the energy to do multi shows of this style and magnitude each night, but BCP does. Therefore, go and get Warped!

By Richard O’Brien
Directed by Stephen Casey
October 21 – 31, 2010
Bucks County Playhouse
70 S. Main Street
New Hope, PA

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