A shadowcast version of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” that’s even more outrageous than the famously outrageous 1975 movie filled with transvestites, hunchbacks, bikers, cannibalism and dancing?
Hard to imagine, but that’s exactly what Baltimore artist Earl O. Melvin is promising for “Chocolate Covered Rocky Horror,” featuring a predominantly black cast acting out the film while it plays onscreen behind them. The performance is set for Feb. 16 at Baltimore Soundstage.
Think of the show, says the artist who first staged it in 2015 in the D.C.-area, as a blaxploitation version of “Rocky Horror.”
“Our version comes off a little more sexual, a little raunchier,” says Melvin, who grew up in East Baltimore’s Oliver community and now lives on Pennsylvania Avenue, near the Billie Holiday statue. “And the music, it has a gospel undertone to it.”
The original “Rocky Horror,” a staple of the midnight-movie circuit since its release more than four decades ago, stars Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a scientist and “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania," determined to create the perfect man in his laboratory. Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick play straight-laced newlyweds who stumble onto the lab while seeking shelter during a rain-soaked night. While there, they are seduced, turned into statues, find themselves in outrageous costumes and perform a tribute to movie musicals of the 1940s.
It gets even weirder from there.
Audiences over the years have delighted in playing along with the film, opening umbrellas when it rains onscreen, throwing toast when one of the characters proposes a toast. With “Chocolate Covered Rocky Horror," Melvin promises that his performers amp the outrageousness up several notches, making for an evening that’s fun, all-inclusive and decidedly R-rated.
Save for the young, he assures, all are welcome, and encouraged to let their freak flags fly.
“I just love the idea that this brings different people together,” he says, “from the LGBT community, and the nostalgic...the people who were around when it first came out,” he says. “There’s kind of this culture clash in this space. I want to bring people of different backgrounds together for a common thing that will entertain and open-up minds.”
Filtering the “Rocky Horror” experience through a black prism, especially one that invokes the blaxpolitation films and the black experience of the 1970s, he says, should attract a whole new fan base to the movie and its anything-goes spirit.
“Exposing something like this to the African-American community,” he says, “I just think that’s another level of mental freedom.”
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