Show in Review: Gryn Productions’ “The Rocky Horror Show”

After penning the preview article for MainLine Theatre’s The Rocky Horror Show just last week, I went up to the lab to see exactly what was on the slab for the show’s final run on Saturday night.

I didn’t know what to expect from a live production, as I’d only seen the movie before that fateful night; it was with expectations for the unexpected and bright red lipstick that I hit MainLine Theatre.

Admittedly, when I walked into the actual auditorium, I was underwhelmed. A stage, scattered with instruments, sound equipment, and a few blank televisions, with a sizeable rectangle of barren black floor in front of it, surrounded on three sides by coliseum-style seating.

No scenery or sets were in place, certainly nothing flashy that denoted the over-the-top sci-fi horror flicks that the show so pointedly parodies. I had pulled my friends along for this wild ride, and if things got rocky (or worse) I knew I was going to take the blame for being the one to pick the poor entertainment.

The seats filled up with excited people young and old, from all walks of life. Some were rowdy, some in costume, and some, a totally unsurprising cocktail of both at the same time. (Despite what the venerable Graeme Shorten Adams may think, the show certainly has a universal appeal when it comes to drawing a crowd.)

The lights flashed three times, the room slipped into darkness and the show began.

Stripped down to its bare bones, Gryn Productions’ edition of The Rocky Horror Show recaptured the raw, vivacious, camp, and delightfully nasty glamour of the movie—and I can only guess, of other stage productions—and yet transmogrified it into something completely new and wonderful, with fresh interpretations of classic scenes and characters. (Perfect example: Rocky’s character being an unabashed “bro” at several, perfect, moments.)

Perhaps most surprising was the way the minimalism of the set actually worked in favour of the medium.

That barren space in front of the stage transformed from a back road on a stormy night, to a high tech lab, to a bedroom and back again. It became whatever it needed to be.

The uninitiated may have been confused, and the imagination-impaired sceptics unimpressed, but for the fans there was nothing left to be desired. The cast and crew threw everything they had at this thing, and they pulled it off spectacularly.

Audience favourite Antonio Bavaro was incredible—seductive, sadistic and yet sympathetic, glammed up as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, blowing everyone’s minds (and then some) with a simple pursing of his sparkling ruby lips. His razor-sharp quips and off-the-cuff retorts to the increasingly rowdy audience had everyone in stitches in time for the grand finale.

He wasn’t alone in being impressively, wonderfully, immersed in character.

At one point, Janet and Brad (Stevie Pemberton and Johnny Bateman, respectively) asked my roommate desperately for her phone, only to be hustled off by the chorus of dancers clad in black lace, back into doing the time warp (again).

Along with Riff Raff, Rocky and Eddie, all of the key players brought something amazing to the table, and in a cast so small, everyone is key.

The experience was totally fresh and immersive. I was screaming at the cast with the audience, or laughing too hard, or singing along.

In my humble opinion, that’s how it should be. It was a personification of the totally wicked force of live theatre, simple in essence, but big in execution and ideas. People forgot their outside lives and their inhibitions and gave in to being loud and crude and happy.

In an earlier interview with producer Shayn Gryn, he told me that he hopes to be able to book a longer run for next year’s production (this year’s only ran from Oct. 23 to Oct. 26).

I’m telling you now, if they do, you should go and see the show for yourself. For a fan of the movie, or even if you’re only curious, it’s not to be missed.

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