Anyone who has seen Richard O'Brien's cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show knows that the best part of the ridiculous old film is the devoted fans who have raised the pedestrian act of midnight moviegoing to a bawdy art. They shout at the screen, dance in the aisles and sometimes trick themselves up in leather bustiers, just like Dr. Frank N Furter, the lip-licking character who made Tim Curry a star. Too bad the folks at The Little Room Downstairs couldn't hire an audience to help out their struggling cast. Because The Rocky Horror Show without its rowdy peanut gallery is just a rocky mess.
All about sexual boundaries, the story starts with Janet (Erin Simpson) and Brad (Matt Joseph), an aw-shucks kind of couple whose tire goes flat on a lonesome road in the middle of a stormy night. Brad remembers the castle they had passed and smartly decides to go hunting for a phone. (Here's where the movie audience shouts something like "Castles don't have phones, asshole!"). Riffing on the macabre black-and-white flicks of yesteryear, O'Brien sends his cheesy couple straight into a chamber of outrageous horrors where they encounter a host of "erotic nightmares." Frank N Furter (Greg Ayres), the transvestite from the planet Transsexual, will teach the neophytes a thing or two about steamy love before the night is over. The concept sounds promising, but the thin material and bad songs add up to little more than a protracted comedy sketch, one that runs two hours too long and feels like every minute of it without the rambunctious crowd to fill in the yawning gaps.
Director Christopher Ayres does nothing to jump-start this tired musical, nor does he lend much help to his young and mostly inexperienced cast. Simpson and Joseph do a fine job with their comic-book-style characters; Simpson is especially strong as the libidinous, buxom Janet. Her nose crinkles, and her warm eyes go soft when she's confronted with the lurid likes of the not-so-good doctor. And when she opens her mouth to sing, out comes one of the biggest, sweetest sounds in Houston. Janet's lusty anthem, "Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me," never sounded so compelling.
But Ayres as Frank N Furter, along with his group of goth alien followers dressed in leather and lace, have a hard time holding up their end of the show. Apparently neither trained singers nor dancers, the supporting actors try their best at both. When not otherwise engaged, they grope each other's crotches along the back wall of the stage, as if they were all engaged in some sort of never-ending orgy.
Truth be told, the movie version isn't much better, but had director Ayres spent his energies on finding some inventive ways to involve his audience, he might have been able to turn the otherwise banal script into something worth shouting at.
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