Review: The Rocky Horror Show at Spotlighters Theatre

TheatreBloom rating:

It’s just a jump to Mount Vernon. And then a step to St. Paul. Stop at 817, and take the steps but don’t fall! See it’s those crazy shows that really drive you insa-ay-ay-ay-ane! Let’s go to Spotlighters again! Let’s go to Spotlighters again! Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show in its full fabulous glory is time warping its way through The Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre in time for Halloween this 2014. Directed by Greg Bell with Musical Direction by Michael Tan, this cult classic has everything you loved about the movie in a live stage show and then some. There’s even a late-night double feature on Saturdays so if you miss it at 8pm you can catch it at 11pm!

Center- Brad(l-Phil Vannoorbeeck) and Janet (Bridget Linsenmeyer) arrive at The Frankenstein Place
Center- Brad(l-Phil Vannoorbeeck) and Janet (Bridget Linsenmeyer) arrive at The Frankenstein Place Chris Aldridge, CMAldridgePhotography

When one thinks of The Rocky Horror Show many things come to mind all at once, but above all the insanely fabulous costumes that earmarked it as a fashion trend gone wonky. Costume Designer Todd Douglass lives up to this standard with the outrageous outfits and makeup designs used throughout the production. The Phantoms are phantasmagorical with their skimpy yet threatening apparel while Riff-Raff, Magenta, and Columbia take on the striking biker approach with all the leather featured in their outfits. The corsets are to die for, especially the sparkling ones saved for Frank. Douglass outdoes himself with fishnet stockings, spike-pointed push-up bras and the sexiest heels a sweet transvestite could ever hope to lay eyes on.

Musical Director Michael Tan (left wall) and The Stillborn Unicorns Dead Pit Band
Musical Director Michael Tan (left wall) and The Stillborn Unicorns Dead Pit Band Chris Aldridge, CMAldridgePhotography

Musical Director Michael Tan, simultaneously the Keyboardist and pit conductor for the ‘Dead Band: The Stillborn Unicorns’ does a spectacular job of bringing all the iconic musical numbers to vibrant reanimated life. Tan puts a unique spin on a great deal of the orchestrations, turning “Eddie’s Teddy” into a hillbilly twang routine, “Touch-a Touch Me” into an 80’s pop opera and many other sneaky little surprises that will really throw the audience for a whirl. Balancing the volume as best as he is able, the look of utter insanity is completed with manacles that shackle the pit band to the wall.

Choreographer Jillian Locklear Bauersfeld brings a hybrid of cult-classic routines that the audiences knows and loves so well and intriguing new zombie-vamp inspired dance moves to the musical numbers of the production. Bauersfeld’s work is primarily witnessed among the Phantom ensemble, their jarring motions almost like an undead hoard striking forth on the fresh flesh of the living. Numbers like “Time Warp” and “Hot Patootie” feature a fair bit of upright shake, rattle, and rolling while earlier numbers throughout feature the frightening trance-like crawling where the Phantom core moves almost as a singular entity.

Riff-Raff (Jim Baxter center on pole) and The Phantom Corp
Riff-Raff (Jim Baxter center on pole) and The Phantom Corp Chris Aldridge, CMAldridgePhotography

It’s Director Greg Bell who owns the show. From the pre-show entertainment (RHS virgins beware!) right through the final rendition of “Time Warp” Bell’s presence is felt and heard throughout. If you’ve never experienced Rocky Horror the way it was meant to be experienced, Bell has a handle on that for you. Calling out all of the trick-lines and hilarious things that made the show a cult classic over the year, he truly becomes a master of ceremonies. Not to mention his directorial skills keeping the show on a steady, albeit absurd, course to science-fiction insanity. Enough good words cannot be found for the vision Bell stirs up on the Spotlighters stage, but it sure does look fun and fascinating!

Lost in the darkness are Brad (Phil Vannoorbeeck) and Janet (Bridget Linsenmeyer), the stereotypical nice couple who end up mixed into something wildly strange. Vannoorbeeck’s singing voice isn’t the strongest, unfortunately being washed away by the pit band for numbers like “Once In a While” and his solo during “Super Heroes.” But what Vannoorbeeck lacks in vocal power he makes up for in character strength. His solo dance during “Floor Show” has moxie and is well worth an ovation for shaking all that he has in that scene. Linsenmeyer starts off mousy but as her character grows, so does her voice. Linsenmeyer owns “Touch-a Touch Me” with a sexual prowess that’s ready to take a bite out of the night.

Rocky Horror (l- Stephen Edwards) and Frank (r- Garrett Zink)
Rocky Horror (l- Stephen Edwards) and Frank (r- Garrett Zink) Chris Aldridge, CMAldridgePhotography

Eye candy all round is Frank’s new creation Rocky Horror (Stephen Edwards.) Looking exactly as the song describes him, Edwards flexes every muscle available for his unveiling during “Sword of Damocles.” And his voice is sturdy as well. The facial expressions put forth from Edwards as he responds to all of the strangeness that happens throughout the show is priceless; a true series of cameo moments well worth noting.

Columbia (l- Emily Biondi) and Eddie (Vince Vuono)
Columbia (l- Emily Biondi) and Eddie (Vince Vuono) Chris Aldridge, CMAldridgePhotography

Squeaky squealing Columbia (Emily Biondi) is nasally, obnoxious, but cute as a button stitched onto the side of Frankenstein’s neck. It’s easy to see why Frank rejects Biondi’s character since she does such a sensational job of embodying the twit-like personality. Vapid and vivacious, Biondi gets a screaming solo during “Time Warp” and later in “Floor Show” that make her every bit as shocking as her wicked twisted hair.

Riff-Raff (l- Jim Baxter) and Magenta( r- Parker Bailey Steven)
Riff-Raff (l- Jim Baxter) and Magenta( r- Parker Bailey Steven) Chris Aldridge, CMAldridgePhotography

The super stars of the show are all bundled up in a tangle of elbow-sexed limbs. Riff-Raff (Jim Baxter) and Magenta (Parker Bailey Steven) are where the show is really at. Baxter has the voice of an angel, albeit a fallen one with his demonic stares and possessive charm, but when he alights on the scene in “Over at the Frankenstein Place” his voice is haunting and enchanting. His freakish presence is spine chilling and his voice echoes throughout “Time Warp” and the tail end of “Floor Show.” Steven has a siren’s voice, albeit an evil one, from her piercing belts featured throughout to her intoxicating opening of “Science Fiction, Double Feature” she has the audience easily ensnared in her performance. Together Baxter and Steven are a dynamic duo that really twists the audience around a freaky pointed screw and drives home everything that there is to love about The Rocky Horror Show.

Frank (center- Garrett Zink) and The Phantom Corp
Frank (center- Garrett Zink) and The Phantom Corp Chris Aldridge, CMAldridgePhotography

Naturally saving the best for last Garrett Zink is the ruler of the roost when it comes to the production. Taking on the iconic role of Frank he all but blasts the audience out of their seats during his thunderous entrance at the top of “Sweet Transvestite.” Pitching that song with sexual appeal to the max, Zink owns the number with his strut and possessive looks, not to mention the incredible articulation, annunciation, and slithering vocal charm he infuses into the song. His facial expressions are to die for, and his sassy rendition of “Planet Schmanet” is simply a scream. Even “I’m Going Home,” the song that has always felt wildly out of place in this musical becomes a dulcet dirge from Zink’s lips. A true knockout in the role, Zink does the character a great service with his performance.

Vamp out, bring your toilet paper, and be sure to catch The Rocky Horror Show at Spotlighters before it blasts off back to the moon drenched shores of Transexual Transylvania.

Running Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes with one intermission

The Rocky Horror Show plays through November 8, 2014 at The Audrey Herman Spotlighters Theatre— 817 N. Saint Paul Street, in Baltimore, MD. For tickets call the box office at (410) 752-1225, or purchase them online.

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