By Hayley Yount Severe (Penn Valley, CA)
My Review, (or fair warning), my Rant of #RockyHorrorPictureShow which aired on Fox on October 20th, 2016.
Wow. What did I just watch? The “disneyfication” of my favorite musical cult classic. Glee did an episode 3 seasons ago on Rocky Horror, and it was much better than this dumpster fire. I was concerned when I learned the director of Disney’s High School Musicals 1, 2 and 3 was at the helm. However, it seems Studio 54, Glee, and a very large jar of gold glitter had a 3-way and birthed this questionable by-product.
Kuddos to the beautiful transgendered actress who played Frank, NOT an easy role. And she played to her strengths, having a few promising moments. Incredible makeup, great dance moves, and those legs! (BTW, did you see Ben Vereen in fishnet stockings? A moment of redemption for this off-kilter over-production?)
However, and I may get in trouble here, Frank is a Transvestite, not Transgendered. Tim Curry’s Frank was a wretched, sensual creature, with a jaw that when unhinged, could seduce you or eat you and you wouldn’t mind either. We first meet him as he enters from the elevator with smeared makeup, his bustier unbuttoned, exposing his worn and wiry male physique, ripped and torn stockings, evidence of a recent elicit encounter.
Tonight’s Rocky sports size DD breasts, amply, however elegantly, supported by rhinestone corsets and belief- suspending costuming, fit for a Baz Luhrmann production. It just felt wrong to witness Brad and Janet in the extraterrestrial bosom of Rocky. Their innocence lost is never overtly forthcoming or satisfyingly convincing. Lovely voices and arrangements, just never convinced me the debauchery was truly enjoyed.
The iconic songs from the score are popular among my adult voice students, and I have held each note like a diamond, the melody always stretching delicately to the top of the voice to attain the dulcet tones required to perform “Going Home” and swinging the voice wide open with a dangerous, coming to get you edge for “Sweet Transvestite”. In fact, I’ve said this is the only song to be sung at my funeral. By a TENOR. When sung an octave below the original score, it loses its luster, its tensile sexuality and raw, lustful desperation. Casting no aspersions on tonight’s Rocky, and the work I know went into preparing for this showcase roll, the music and the voice were written so deep in the bass clef, much of the poetic words (and accompanying sensuality) was lost.
A word on Rocky’s attire: Why are you wearing knee length sport shorts?! Don’t you know we all wanted, no, needed to see you in those iconic gold lame beefcake shorts. Those shorts defined Rocky and Frank’s off- the-charts lust for him. Frank would NEVER stand, (or kneel) for it! Jeez.
Had the show been taped live, as in previous seasons on Fox, (Grease, Sound of Music, to huge ratings I might add), the audience participation scenes would have at least made some sense to the viewer. As it was recorded, these scenes felt incidental. Question: What’s with the all Goth kids in the audience? And would it not be logical to have them dressed in costume, carrying the well-known props as is done at every RHPS Midnight Show and stage play done for the last 40 years? Perhaps too risky with all those costume changes.
So wonderful to see Tim Curry in the role as Narrator, an incredible performance given he could not speak, let alone sing, following a devastating stroke in 2012. Four years later, here he is before us, truth-or-daring us with those same gleaming eyes that birthed Frank-n-Furter, reaching towards me through the screen. His mere presence stirred a torrent of memories youthful, nocturnal adventures at the raucous Will Rogers Theater Midnight Show some 30 years ago.
One last thing: Again, boas off for Frank-n-Furter’s performance tonight, but you had ADAM LAMBERT right there, on set. I can’t think of anyone who could do Frank better. And he’s given the smallest roll, previously portrayed by Meatloaf. He’s given one song. And with that one song, he proved he deserved his shot in the spotlight as Frank. A sexy, gay man with the voice, presence, and sensuality of Freddie Mercury (that’s why Queen hired him to replace Freddie on their recent world tour). And he was right under their noses.
A great voice coach once told me, “If you’re going to do Rocky Horror Picture Show, then DO Rocky Horror Picture Show!” Wise words.