Who Said THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW Couldn’t Be Charming?

by David Bradford

Thomas Russell as Riff Raff, Michael Parillo as Frank N' Furter and Lucy Marie Smith as Magenta in CSP's THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW. (Photo credit: Che-Yu Peter Kuo)

I am not a fan of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW.  I mean, I can understand why it’s campy, irreverent nature and out-of-control audience participation appeals to its ardent following, but it is simply not a show I enjoy seeing.  So it is a tremendous testament to the quality and energy of the Chapel Street Players’ production that I left Friday night’s performance having thoroughly enjoyed myself! Director Andrew John Mitchell assembled a highly talented, tremendously enthusiastic cast to bring this fan-favorite show to Newark, Delaware.

THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, by Richard O’Brien, is probably best known for its 1975 movie adaptation.  It is the story of a young, squeaky-clean, newly engaged couple who stumble upon an old castle when their car breaks down on a cold, rainy night.  The castle belongs to Dr. Frank N’ Furter (Michael Parillo), a mad scientist transvestite who has been trying to make the perfect boy toy, Rocky Horror (Dennis Conner). Frank N’ Furter, and his servants Riff Raff (Thomas Russell), Magenta (Lucy Marie Smith), and Columbia (Laura Dunbar) take hospitality to a whole new twisted level.

Russell exhibits strong rock vocal chops in the show’s signature piece “Time Warp”, but it’s his physical comedy skills and timing that bring strength to the role.  Smith also shows off her vocal and comedy skills throughout the show.

But it is Parillo’s performance which solidifies the production.  Frank N’ Furter is supposed to have an indescribable, mesmerizing hold on his guests, and Parillo has that effect on the audience.  His is a commanding presence that is forceful, yet charming; masculine, yet feminine; highly theatrical, but vulnerable and human.

Of course I would be remiss in not mentioning the young couple, Brad (Justin Walsh) and Janet (Caitlin E. Adams). Walsh, too, has a great voice (told you this was a talented cast) and he played the naïve, but well-meaning young man quite believably. Adams did a nice job in transitioning Janet though the twists and turns of the show.

Other notables in the cast included Eddie (Brett Pearson), the Usher (A. J. LoPorto) and Usherette (Suzanne Stein). Pearson comes in like a whirlwind toward the end of Act I and rocks out. LoPorto had the fun task of narrating the story line in parts, and drawing the already willing audience further into the show.  Stein, who was also the Assistant Director and Choreographer for this production, opens and closes the show strongly with “Science Fiction, Double Feature”. While her voice alone is a tremendous asset to the show, she brings an obviously deep love for THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW to the stage.  I challenge you to find even one moment during the time when she is on stage that she isn’t fully enjoying herself. It’s a passion for the show that has clearly infected her fellow cast members as well.

One additional cast member needs to be especially mentioned. Renee G. O’Leary has been a long-time member and supporter of Chapel Street Players, in addition to applying her theatrical talents to her work in teaching science in a creative way to school kids (including my own). THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW marks the 49th consecutive annual “FUNDraiser” production she has appeared in for Chapel Street Players.  This time around, she takes on the role of Dr. Scott. She is quite funny and strangely intimidating in the role.

Also, kudos go out to the set designer Christina Bartley and the crew that assembled it.  The set really transforms the small theatre, giving it a larger-than-life roomy feel. It also makes good use of hidden spaces for set transitions.

Michael Parillo as Frank N' Furter and Dennis Conner as Rocky Horror. (Photo credit: Che-Yu Peter Kuo)

If you are a big fan of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, then you will most definitely want to add this production to your list. Even if you are not a huge fan of the show, but are a fan of theatre done with heart, passion and talent, you won’t be disappointed! But be warned, calling THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW “raunchy” would be an understatement, particularly when you factor in all the lines coming from the audience.  If foul language, adult themes, and simulated sex (of all orientations) offend you, you may want to pass and watch something a little less risqué…like “Jersey Shore”.

THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW has only three more scheduled performances: Next Friday and Saturday (June 22nd and 23rd) at 8pm, and a special “midnight” performance at 11:59 PM on Friday, June 22nd. Tickets are $18.

by Richard O’Brien
Directed by Andrew John Mitchell
June 8-23, 2012
Chapel Street Players
27 N. Chapel St
Newark, DE 19711

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1 comment

Joe P June 18, 2012 - 12:06 pm

I saw the show. It was nice. It was cute. It was kitch. It was Rocky.


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