By PAM HARBAUGH
Richard O’Brien’s musical homage to B-movies of the sci-fi/horror genre, “The Rocky Horror Show,” has invaded Titusville Playhouse again in all its glam rock ‘n roll glory. And this is the live stage musical version of the cult classic — not the shadow-cast-performing-in-front-of-the-projected-movie verion.
“It’s built up its own little following in Titusville,” said director Steven Heron. “We only do it for two weekends, but we were already 83 percent sold out before we even opened. It’s crazy.”
In fact, audiences all over the country flock to the “Rocky Horror” phenomenon, especially around the Halloween season. They dress in garb inspired by the 1975 film and get involved with the shenanigans the characters go through. They’ll even stand up and dance.
Even though the Titusville Playhouse has the live show on its boards, audiences will still have the interactive experience they expect at the movie version. The theater will sell $10 prop bags complete with red feather boa, flashlights, whistles, toilet paper and more. Those in the know use these items and generally toss them at each other or toward the stage. Like the characters do onstage during a rain storm, audience members will hold newspaper over their head while cast members spray water toward the audience.“The theater looks like crap at the end of the show,” Heron said, laughing. “We bring in a crew of four people to clean it up. It takes them five or six hours.”
That was pretty much the amount of time it took Heron to direct this year’s production – the fourth one in four years.
The cast and crew, who had done the show before, met on Monday and four days later had a dress rehearsal.
“It was old hat for everybody,” Heron said. “Everybody knows it. We lost (the biker character) Eddie this year, but funny enough, I cast Courtenay Charbet who’s been a rocky fan half of his life. So he knew everything already.”
Cast members returning include: Ari Richardson as Dr. Frank N. Furter, Shea Rafferty as the beautiful creature Rocky, Alex Browne as the maniacal Riff Raff, Melinda Benyea as sexy maid Magenta, Marcy Szymanski as sexy Columbia, Kyle McDonald as Brad and Kristen Sellers as Janet.
And Sellers, who lives in Ocoee, has proven herself rather invaluable in this production.
A self-proclaimed “Rocky Horror fanatic,” she wanted to get the perfect pink dress for her role. A couple years ago she found online a home business that specializes in “Rocky” costumes.
“It was perfect,” she said. “And it wasn’t as expensive.”
She showed Heron the dress and suggested that Titusville Playhouse purchase all the costumes so they didn’t have to rent them every year.
“I said we have to use these guys,” she said. “They’re stuff is great. It’s affordable and looks fantastic.”
Sellers said the costumes “look straight out of the movie” with beautiful corsets and perfect space ship outfits. Heron loves the details on the costumes, especially the little shards hanging down on Riff Raff’s tail coat.
Making them even better for repeated stage use, the costumes came double lined everything and with heavier zippers.
“The costumes are extremely important,” Sellers said. “Most people come in with an impression of the movie. The closer we are to that brings back all the memories of the show. For me, when I see a production of it, this is how I have it pictured in my head.”
In addition to costumes, the biggest visual element on stage is the lighting. Scenic design tends to fade away in order to make the experience more like a rock concert.To that end, Heron turned to Titusville Playhouse’ s new lighting designer, Luke Atkison, who recently moved here from Kansas City, Missouri, where he designed lights at Kansas City Repertory Theatre.
Atkison had only heard gossip about how much fun Titusville Playhouse’s “Rocky Horror Show” was and that the audience loved it.
“I knew it had to be good,” he said. “But then, Steven came to me and talked about what he envisioned, which was raw, edgy, true rock’ n roll style.
“It was really pulling more of my background of concert lighting rather than theater (lighting) to get that edgy, in-your-face lighting design.”
To do that, he uses concert style lighting which employs color, movement and “constant engagement.”
Explaining, he broke lighting into three approaches:
Straight plays (non-musicals) is frequently softer and warmer. The lighting is not noticed because it appears as if it could come from an on-stage source. Lighting here is more subtle and supportive rather than pulling focus.
Musicals need more heightened energy. To achieve that, lighting designers may have saturated color in their lighting and movement, like you see in a follow spot. Lighting should enhance or boost certain musical moments.
Rock ‘n roll concert lighting steps up the energy with moving lights, a large number of spots that change color, have high color saturation and move. The special technique of using “blinders,” a light aimed for a few sweeping seconds directly at the audience, will increase action or distract the audience during a special effect.
“To see those light beams and movement of the light beams create an energy in the audience as well,” Atkison said.
And he uses all that for “Rocky Horror Show.”
“It’s the nature of the show,” Heron said. “It’s a theatrical event, but you treat it as a rock ‘n roll concert.
“Everybody’s having a good time. It’s become this thing. That’s the whole reason I put it in four years ago. Audiences let down their hair.”
SIDE O’ GRITS: “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” runs through Sunday at Titusville Playhouse, 301 Julia St., Titusville. It performs 8 p.m. and midnight Friday and Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $25 and $29. Call 321-268-1125, visit TitusvillePlayhouse.com or click on their ad.
This is an edited version of a story running in Melbourne Beachsider.