I thought I was prepared for the experience of seeing "The Rocky Horror Show" at a late-night performance on Halloween Eve.
The outrageous musical, of course, is known for its audience-participation factor: Those watching call out catchphrases, insults and off-color comments at certain moments throughout the show. (When viewing the movie, the audience goes even further, squirting water and throwing toilet paper and toast in the air.)
So I was prepared for a raucous audience.
What I wasn't prepared for was my reaction: What was on the stage was so much fun and performed with such polish that I wished the audience would pipe down and let me more fully engage with director Steve MacKinnon's lively show.
I've seen "Rockys" over the years that went for the basics: Get the actors in their underwear, make sure they know the lines and sing away.
But this production reaches higher, from the intimate opening as the ensemble watches a "late-night picture show" with the audience, to Spencer Morrow's quirky choreography (Think "Thriller" meets a drag show) to Matt Rudman's multilevel scenic design that keeps the feeling of a decaying movie house while also serving as Frank N. Furter's castle.
Frank N. Furter, for those who have somehow missed the "Rocky Horror" madness since its stage inception in the 1970s and subsequent Tim Curry film, is a transvestite mad scientist from the planet Transylvania. Young innocents Brad and Janet stumble into his castle and witness the debut of his latest creation, a Frankenstein-like creature called Rocky. The two youngsters get thoroughly debauched by the scientist and his minions during a stormy night.
The whole thing is set up as a spoof of the sci-fi B-movies of the '50s, and MacKinnon's cast finds the right balance between earnestness and winking to the audience at the silliness of it all.
David Sierra and Alexa Langella are as charmingly fresh-faced as they come as Brad and Janet. And both have lovely singing voices. Jeremy Seghers, at full throttle as Riff Raff, hits all the right high notes in "The Time Warp," and Danielle Kimberley performs some very funny vocal acrobatics as Columbia.
As for Rocky himself, Robb Ross is sparkly and simple. So all's right there.
But it's Frank N. Furter's show, and Adam McCabe is fantastically ferocious yet a bit sad at the same time, presiding over his floor show of depravity with a fierce strut and, when need be, a withering comment to the crowd: "I am not the movie," he snapped Saturday to one particularly unruly heckler.
The only decision that doesn't quite come off is casting a woman as Eddie. Dorothy Massey, who also designed the show's decadent costumes, attacks the role with gusto. But in a show so full of gender-bending moments it seems like one too many. And no one can fix a problem inherent to "Rocky" — all the best songs are in the first act, making the second act feel a bit long.
The five musicians, under the direction of Spencer Crosswell, rev up a rock sound, but don't overpower the singers. Thankfully, they did at times silence that audience.
Matthew J. Palm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5038.
See for yourself
•What: 'The Rocky Horror Show,' by Richard O'Brien
•Where: Theatre Downtown, 2113 N. Orange Ave., Orlando
•When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, through Nov. 13
•Tickets: $18 in advance, $20 at the door
•Info: Theatredowntown.netCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun