The doctor is in in Moonbox’s ‘Rocky Horror Show’
CAMBRIDGE – “The Rocky Horror Show” has deep roots in this city.
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the film which was released in 1975 and is still being shown in theaters today, was appointment viewing during its weekly Saturday midnight runs at the former AMC Loews Theater from 1984 to 2012.
Around the corner from where the theater was located, Moonbox Productions is celebrating its return from the pandemic with “The Rocky Horror Show,” the 1973 stage musical that spawned the movie.
Moonbox presented “The Rocky Horror Show” at a pop-up theater at 25 Brattle St. in 2019 – nicknamed “The Lab” — and it has returned to the same venue for the current run, which extends to Oct. 31.
“The Rocky Horror Show” is a humorous tribute to the science fiction and horror B movies of the late 1940s through to the early 1970s. It is dark, decadent, sexy, free-wheeling, and fast-moving, set to a throbbing rock score by Richard O’Brien, who wrote the book, music and lyrics.
Audience participation is encouraged but not mandatory, and veterans of the show often come in right on cue, as they did at a recent performance.
The show tells the story of a nerdy, naïve couple, Brad Majors (Ryan Norton) and his fiancée, Janet Weiss (Christina Jones), who get caught in a thunderstorm with a flat-tire and are forced to seek help at the castle of Dr. Frank N. Furter (Peter Mill), a transvestite scientist who couples his manic genius with an insatiable libido.
Mill’s mad doctor is less physically threatening than your usual horror villain, but he has dialed up the campy, creepy, decadent side of the character, as if it needed any ramping up. He’s a sight in a fright wig, bustier and thing-high black boots, and he commands the stage no matter what he’s up to, and especially with a chainsaw in his hands.
He’s aided and abetted by his cohorts — Magenta (Lori L’Italien), Riff Raff (Kevin Hanley) and Columbia (Shalyn Grow) — as he drags Brad and Janet into his latest experiment, a Frankenstein-style monster in the form of an artificially made, fully grown, physically perfect young man named Rocky Horror (Jack Manning). Rocky is quite the “monster,” bare chested and wearing little gold lamé briefs, and he gets various hormones going, especially those of — to Brad’s horror – Janet.
Rocky will serve as a “replacement” for Frank’s former consort, the ill-fated Eddie (Shonna Cirone).
And don’t forget our capable Narrator (Alex Jacobs), who serves as a witty Greek chorus to the chaotic goings-on, and often has a back-and-forth with audience members.
Then there are the slinky all-dancing, all-singing Phantoms, key to the many rousing production numbers such as the signature tune “The Time Warp.” They include Alexander Holden, Janis Hudson, H.C. Lee, Stevan Sawan, Lillie Reising, and Emma Kate Harris.
Daniel Forrest Sullivan’s choreography gives the show much of its energy and sizzle.
Music director Mindy Cimini leads a sterling six-piece ensemble that keeps the beat going full-tilt throughout.
The hookups come fast and furious in Act II, with Brad, Janet, Frank and Rocky all being swept up in the lustful frenzy.
A wheelchair-bound Dr. Scott (Cirone again) will eventually arrive on the scene to investigate his missing nephew Eddie and the ending is, well, a homage to every cheesy science fiction movie ever made.
The production values are sublime and one of the keys to the success of the show. Start with director David Lucey and his intentionally perfectly outrageous costumes designs; Cameron McEachern’s creepy set with a second floor above the stage used to great effect; James Cannon’s sound design and myriad of special effects; and Samuel J. Biondolillo’s spooky lighting, which all combine to create a sense of foreboding once Brad and Janet knock on Frank’s door.
Moonbox is part of a consortium of area theaters asking theater-goers to remain masked inside the theater and to provide proof of vaccination or a recent Covid-19 test upon entering.
There has to be something at the core of a piece to make a play or film still popular and relevant almost a half-century later. And while the shock value may have waned during the years, “The Rocky Horror Show” still wears its outrageousness as a badge of honor on its sleeve, and even in these pandemic times there’s great fun to be had in “The Lab.”
Moonbox Productions. presents “The Rocky Horror Show.” Book, music and lyrics by Richard O’Brien. Directed by David Lucey. Through Oct. 31 at “The Lab,” 25 Brattle St., Cambridge. Ticket information: moonbox.org.