Sweet transvestites invade stage

On Halloween night, the 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa was packed with vampires, wizards, and sweet transvestites for the midnight performance of “The Rocky Horror Show.” 

“Happy Halloween you fucking freaks, thanks for paying my light bill,” said Director Craig Miller as he welcomed the audience, who responded by roaring and clapping with pride. 

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the play, which began in London in 1973. Two years later the major motion picture starring Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick hit big screens everywhere and quickly gained an intense following. 

The play is a rock musical that explores the genres of science fiction and horror while adding a unique twist. 

It also seeks to portray the dynamic shifts in sexual behavior, expression and preference that occurred during the 1950s through the characters Brad (Braedyn Youngberg) and Janet (Julianne Lorenzen). 

This was one of the first mainstream productions to include transvestites, cross-dressing and bisexualism, and holds the record for the longest running release of a film. 

The house was packed, and the audience was a wonderful mix of veteran die-hards and Rocky Horror “virgins,” and most were decked out in costume. Some dressed as their favorite characters from the movie, and other costumes included Beetlejuice, Marilyn Monroe and a half-naked devil. 

Throughout the play, the audience gleefully participated in the classic catcalls and responses that are a hallmark of the play. The tradition began almost as soon as the film was released, with audience members yelling lines during pauses in dialogue and dressing up and acting out the movie as it played behind them. 

As Miller pointed out, the show only gets better as more alcohol is consumed, and he encouraged everyone to take advantage of the cheap beer and wine in the lobby. 

The audience certainly took him up on his suggestion, and as the night wore on the responses grew louder and the laughter more frequent.

Overall, the casting was spot-on. Youngberg and Lorenzen did a phenomenal job of depicting the fear, uncertainty and tension that is characteristic of the sexually repressed couple. Youngberg’s squeals of fear were more than convincing, and his sexual interactions with Frank ‘N’ Furter had the audience bursting with laughter. 

Lorenzen’s transformation during “Touch-A Touch-A Touch Me” was a fantastic rendition of the original, and the back-and-forth banter between her and Youngberg was delightful. 

However, Frank ‘N’ Furter (Rob Broadhurst) certainly stole the spotlight. As soon as he took the stage for his first song, “Sweet Transvestite,” the audience went wild. His portrayal of the character was spectacular, right down to the mannerisms, fishnet tights and corset, and his energy and stage presence were bombastic. 

The incestuous siblings Riff-Raff (Jake Turner) and Magenta (Shannon Rider) had creepy down to a T, and Columbia (Rose Roberts) was a fantastically frizzy and energetic fireball. 

The only weak link in the production was Rocky (William Schlosser), who is the man that Frank ‘N’ Furter creates to be his lover and plaything. Although the part itself isn’t large, Schlosser seemed to be lacking in energy and presence, especially during “Sword of Damocles” and “I Can Make You A Man,” the scenes in which Rocky is first born. 

After a resounding round of applause at the end of the show, the cast members invited everyone to do one last round of The Time Warp, and the floor was packed with enthusiastic dancers jumping to the left, stepping to the right and pelvic thrusting until 2:45 a.m.

The production as a whole was fantastic and did an exemplary job of both remaining true to the original, as well as making it work on a smaller scale without sacrificing any critical elements.