Review: Rocky Horror Show at Iron Crow Theatre

TheatreBloom rating:

Are you ready to shiver with antici—

—PATION?

Stamping their hallmark all over The Rocky Horror Show, as Baltimore’s queer theatre, Iron Crow Theatre is starting their very own annual tradition in this historic season of new discoveries. Taking Richard O’Brien’s cult-classic musical to the stage is the Christmas Carol of Halloween this time of year, but what’s making ITC’s production stand-out from others popping up in the area or even in your living room view the television screen? Why it’s the delightfully decadent 1920’s Hollywood aesthetic that frames the production, that’s what. Directed by Sean Elias with Musical Direction by Ben Shaver, all the iconic denizens of darkness are being overhauled and outfitted with a Norma Desmond couture, and the result is a bizarrely beautiful and beautifully bizarre evening with some of the most well-loved spooky scenes from the musical theatre canon.

The Cast of Rocky Horror Show at Iron Crow Theatre Rob Clatterbuck
The Cast of Rocky Horror Show at Iron Crow Theatre

Conceptually, Director Sean Elias is shooting for the Tinsel Town moon, landing somewhere in the twinkling galaxy of visually striking and ideas that didn’t quite make it to fruition. Elias’ integrated hybrid of the live stage show, complete with Choreography designed by Quae Simpson, and a shadow-cast experience, there are bags of goodies for everyone— even the virgins, makes for a rowdy evening that will please most any Rocky Horror fan, whether they’re a cult-classic film loyalist or a die-hard stage devotee. The experience is a dizzying pell-mell of cinematographic chaos mounted to the stage with strong intentions, firm potential, and tremendous talent.

Doffing double design derbies, Set and Costume creator Betty O’Hellno applies Sean Elias’ vision of a festered canker inside the Hollywood bloom like a moldering layer of flashy wallpaper. The glamour and glitz are clearly present, couture fit for even the classiest of stars, but there is a detriment to the aesthetic, mingled with blood and tarnished in other subtler manners. O’Hellno masters the balance between the beauty and the bestial nature of this dying fantasy; the look is unique. It pays an homage to the original film, while living in a concept all its own even if the concept falls short in places of its fullest potential. less

There a pervasive lack of direction with great consistency throughout the production and in places this serves the audience experience fully. Phantoms run amuck, begging interaction with the house and this is a brilliant immersion of thespian and purveyor. But there are other places smattered throughout the performance where the lack of direction feels less intentional and it is unclear whether this is meant to further the bizarre alien experience or reign it into something more theatrical. These hiccups and some less than polished feels to some of the choreography are the show’s major downfalls, but these aside the evening becomes enjoyable and engaging if for nothing but the sheer talent amassed to the stage.

From the quartet of starlet beltress Usherettes (Jessica Bennett, Allison Bradbury, Danielle Harrow, and Emily Small) playing the opening number— “Science Fiction Double Feature”—  like bippity-boppity-doowop ditzes, to the Phantom Core (which includes Bennett and Bradbury as well as Paul America, Chelsea Paradiso, and Eduard Van Osterom) there is talent teeming aplenty in the ensemble. Bradbury and Paradiso put their mark on the house before the curtain rises and again at intermission, watch these two closely and sit up front if possible!

Loaded with vocal strength, Kelly Hutchison doubles up as Eddie and Dr. Scott. Though briefly featured, first as one and then the other, Hutchison gives both “Hot Patootie” and “Eddie’s Teddy” her full vocal attention. Equally talented, though displaying it in her character work and highly nuanced portrayal of The Narrator, Nancy Linden catches the audience’s ears— right from the center of the house whilst eating her popcorn, playing with articulated wooden dolls, and generally causing little bits of commotion.

Columbia (Emily Small) is not your stereotypical shrieking queen when it comes to expressing herself. Small does a smashing job at giving the character an exciting new life that takes echoes of what’s worked previously both in iconic stage renditions and in the original film and transforms them into something invigorating. Taking more mimicked and homage-focused approaches to their characters, Nick Fruit and Sarah Burton— as Brad and Janet respectively— really heighten the campy nature of their existences within the show right up to the turning point once the madness and the chaos has hit its peak. Like the ensemble, all three of these performers are strong of vocal tenacity and clarity.

Rocky (Brice Guerriere) is the epitome of theatrically cut. With muscles that ripple and pectorals that can bump the mamba on their own, Guerriere fits the bill and the build for the role. Playing up the sexuality and curiosity of the character, Guerriere pushes the boundaries of comfort for himself and other characters with great consistency throughout the performance and this is a welcomed trait as all too often the awkward sexuality is too easily shied away from in live stage productions.

The harbingers of sass, the vanguard of psychotic, and the ambassadors of shade, Magenta (Danielle Harrow) and Riff Raff (Scean Aaron) bring a ferocity and intensity to the production that is second only to the Master’s makeup plot itself. Though at times Aaron’s portrayal in particular smacks of ultra-modernity, the sentiment is deeply embedded into his textual delivery, mannerisms, and overall representation of the shady creature. Playing up the elbow-sex scene with his sweet sister, Aaron and Harrow steal the scene during that exchange. Both are fierce of voice, teetering on the edge of sanity and really snatch the opportunity to make their line deliveries fit like fine latex gloves over the incorrigible shouts from the audience.  

The Cast of Rocky Horror Show at Iron Crow Theatre Rob Clatterbuck
The Cast of Rocky Horror Show at Iron Crow Theatre

Leo Grinberg delivers a striking appearance as Frank ‘N’ Furter and lives up to the hype of the vocal acclaim that’s meant to accompany the character. Though Grinberg’s portrayal of Frank is more like Bianca Del Rio by way of RuPaul’s Drag Race channeling Norma Desmond playing Frank in a production of Rocky Horror, most of these heavily greased layers ooze easily into the overall concept for the show. Sassy and flip and fully sexual, Grinberg’s Frank, though at times a bit confused, does not disappoint.

So it’s just a jump to North Avenue, then a step to The Motor House. Put your hands on the door, and slide in tonight! Because this Rocky Horror Show is only modeled on the floor through Halloween night and it’s a little insane but definitely a lot of fun that you won’t want to miss.

Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission

The Rocky Horror Show plays through October 31, 2016 with Iron Crow Theatre on the main stage of The Motor House— 120 W. North Avenue in the Station North Arts District of Baltimore, MD. For tickets call the box office at (443) 637-2769 or purchase them online.


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