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The Rocky Horror Show at the Incline: A Blast From the Past Ensures Its Own Strong Future

Review by Ken Stern of The Rocky Horror Show: Incline Theatre

This is how live theatre trumps movies: a show’s Narrator (think Cabaret‘s Emcee) can ask, first “How crazy do you want to get?” and then send the cast’s Sexy Phantoms into the audience to bring nine “virgins” (people who have never seen The Rocky Horror Show) onto the stage. These volunteers get the chance to display adult humor in a couple of contests. Very funny, and each performance will be unique. And that is how the Warsaw Federal Incline Theatre brings The Rocky Horror Show live to its stage, now through March 5th.

The full house on the opening Friday was raucous and ready while the lights were still high. Rodger Pille’s Narrator is a clever catalyst, ratcheting up the rate of the reaction. Bearded, in a suit and vest, sporting a red tie, he only needed a cane, top hat, and dancing number to have stolen the show. But the uniformly fine cast matched him and bested him with their outrageous costumes, antics, singing, and dancing. They did not need to get energy from the audience, but they were encouraged.

For any still-existing virgins who do not know the story, or the origins of the 1975 film, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was birthed from Richard O’Brien’s 1973 play. The Rocky Horror Show is a musical (book, music, and lyrics by O’Brien). More than a mash up, it is a parody of horror and sci-fi movies. The opening number, “Science Fiction/Double Feature,” wonderfully sung by Marissa Poole as an Usherette (she also plays Magenta), is set in a movie theatre, with cast members watching clips from 1940s and 1950s films. Meanwhile the sexily uniformed Usherette, with red box hat, sings: “And this is how the message ran… / (chorus) Science fiction (ooh ooh ooh) double feature / Doctor X (ooh ooh ooh) will build a creature / See androids fighting (ooh ooh ooh) Brad and Janet”

Non-virgins know that Brad Majors (yell out nickname) and Janet Weiss (yell out nickname), are a wholesome, engaged couple whose car breaks down in a rain storm. They seek help in a castle and the mash up begins. Dakota Mullins as Brad, and Caroline Chisholm as Janet, look like a youthful Clark Kent and Lois Lane, and play their roles cluelessly, innocently, until introduced to the sins of the flesh by the mad scientist Frank-n-Furter (a seemingly 7-foot tall Matt Krieg), an alien (and, as he sings: “a sweet transvestite / From Transexual, Transylvania”). From there, suspend your disbelief and join the crowd in participating, shouting out when cued by the big screen stage left. There is no point in telling the plot, because the plot has no point.

Suffice to say the mad scientist creates a beautiful specimen of a Charles Atlas man, Rocky Horror (Tyler Kuhlman) of whom, the Doctor sings: “. . . in just seven days / Oh, baby / I can make you a man” (“I Can Make You A Man”).

And Kuhlman is quite a man, blond from head to toe, in tight, gold swimming trunks and accompanying sneakers. He poses and preens, showing plenty of muscles, front and back, arms and legs. Like the libidinous Frank-n-Furter, Rocky is insatiable, and bi-sexual, much to Janet’s delight.

Since there are aliens, they must go home, and the plot twist that gets them there is as musical, funny, and nonsensical as the rest of the show. Here Magenta (Marissa Poole) and Riff Raff (Christopher Carte, also the hunchback handyman, channeling many a movie spoof) get their moment center stage. They make the most of it.

The ensemble cast provides great support singing, dancing, and providing looniness throughout: Courtni Nicolaci, Kate Stark, Kyle Taylor and Michael Wright are the four phantoms. Dylan McGill is Eddie and Dr. Scott.

And the costumes (by costume designer Caren Brady): an entire review could be devoted to gushing over the black leather, pink hats and feather fans, black sequined leotards, black fishnet stockings, red pantyhose, red boas—just about the entire cast, half cross dressing—Brad and Janet in their underwear, and, of course, the alien space uniforms worn by Magenta and Riff Raff.

The large black and white checked floor extending from the curtain was fully utilized as dance floor, primarily by the cast as an ensemble. Heather Halle’s (Columbia) tap dance number made impressive use of it. Behind the curtain was the interior of a castle, of course, with a wide stairs leading to the second floor laboratory. Large chrome poles, wrapped in red lights, powered the mad Doctor’s experiment. The dance cage, and pole extending down to the first floor were appropriately utilized by Rocky Horror. And the paintings and sculptures with moving mouths, accompanying the underwear-clad Brad in singing “Once in a While,” wondering if he has lost his love, is just genius. Much credit goes to the production’s designers and managers: Set Design, Brett Bowling, Choreography, Angela Kahle and Production Stage Manager Jenny Lutes. Moving everyone through their paces are Director Matthew Wilson and Music Director John Slate.

Come to watch the show any performance, but plan to participate, coming in costume, if you will, on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. During Audience Participation there are pre-show “rituals,” props to shower onto the audience (must purchase at the box office) and shout outs, sing-a-longs, and in-seat and aisle dancing.

And yes, this is completely for adult audiences.

For tickets, call 513-241-6550 or go to www.cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com. The Warsaw Federal Incline Theater is at 801 Matson Place Cincinnati Ohio 45204.