Glee Does Rocky Horror Proud
"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, God said, "Let there be lips. And there were lips. And they began to sing!"
Rocks Off will never forget the night we first heard a bunch of reprobates screaming at a movie screen while half-clad cult members pantomimed a rock musical from the '70s, and for a brief second while we watched the cast of Glee go through their weekly sing-along to Richard O'Brien's musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show, we were once again a 14-year-old outcast who had finally come home.
There's been talk for years about a remake of Rocky. No one wants that. No one. And from time to time O'Brien teases us that the script for a real, full-on sequel is just about finished. No one really wants that either. What we who sold our souls to the fishnets and high heels really want is for, every once in a while, a bit of the mainstream to come down to the show with us.
We know it's not for the normals all the time, but if you'll just come down and let us, we'll show you something that was and remains unique in the realm of cinema, music and art. In the '80s, the cast of Fame took a trip to the New York theatre where the cult phenomenon really got going, and watched our Pope, Sal Piro, do a pre-show shtick that all midnight emcees have stolen from shamelessly.
In the '90s, Drew Carey and crew took a trip, only to wind up in an all-out dance battle between a rival group of cult fans who insisted that Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was the superior film. (It wasn't.) And now in the new millennium, Glee dedicates a whole episode to the Old Queen, and frankly, we couldn't have been happier.
Rocks off refuses to believe that this episode wasn't written by someone who isn't a cast director of a local shadowcast, or barring that, at least a full-time member. There were just too many little nuances that are only going to be picked up by those who have lived it week in and week out.
When Mercedes stands up and says she wants the traditionally male role of Dr. Frank-n-Furter, we literally applauded in our living room. The fight for female Franks is a constant thing, made all the more volatile by the fact that there are only three female roles in the show. By necessity, female Franks are usually twice as assertive and powerful as their male counterparts, for the sheer reason that they need that power to break into the role.
The list of such subtle nods is endless. The legendary lips opening could have been Lea Michele dubbed over Patricia Quinn's own lips. Brittany and Santana's semi-lesbionic flirtations meshed perfectly with the on-screen relationship between Magenta and Columbia; poor, dumb, sexy, good-hearted Sam is the walking reincarnation of Peter Hinwood's performance as Rocky; and Finn's douche-with-a-heart-of-gold struggle with himself could not have better embodied the ultimate asshole who is Brad Majors.
Speaking of the ultimate asshole, Barry Bostwick makes an appearance, along with Meat Loaf! The two play unscrupulous cable-news producers hoping to entice Sue into doing a news piece on the kids' production in order to show how secular liberalism has invaded the schools. The cameo is brief, with no singing from two dynamite performers - Meat needs no explanation, but for the uninformed Barry was also the original Danny in Grease - but made for a nice bit of nostalgia.
And the sets! By the pearls of Tim Curry, the sets! We couldn't believe the detail they'd gone into. They had had a working elevator for Frank's entrance, a picture-perfect model of the Oakley Court Hotel where the movie was filmed, a birth tank for Rocky, the Greek statues that adorned Frank's lab, and a dead-on-balls accurate Sonic Transducer.
Do you know hard it is to build a Sonic Transducer? We do! The one that the Beautiful Creatures use at the River Oaks Theatre shows was built by our dad, and it wasn't easy or cheap. (Brief aside: He also built us a toilet-paper cannon.) We love you, Dad!
The sets, though, are actually our one complaint with the episode. Will sells the idea of doing the show to the kids because they'll make money through ticket sales for transportation to nationals in New York. Never mind that for what they spent on making all those fantastic set pieces they could easily have transported the cast anywhere in the United States.
Of course, the real reason behind Will's desire to perform what we think we all can admit is not an appropriate musical for a high school is because his ex-girlfriend Emma has found a measure of freedom and acceptance from attending midnight screenings with her new boyfriend Carl. This prompts Will to take over the role of Rocky and get Emma to rehearse "Touch Me" as Janet with him.
This scene alone is worth the price of cable, as Jayma Mays doesn't get near enough screen time or songs. What we wouldn't have given to see her do the role in bra and panties!
We noticed a lot of negative buzz from Rocky fans about this episode, especially from people who are longtime members of the local cast. Well, Rocks Off spent ten years at Rocky Horror. We've played every part, we were a cast director for two years, we built sets and made prop bags. Every girl we ever slept with, we met at the River Oaks Theatre at midnight. Hell, we married Magenta!
We've gotten drunk with Patricia Quinn, and served as a consultant for a local theatrical production. Our Rocky cred is as solid as anyone else's in this city, and we had a fantastic time watching the Gleesters pay homage to what will always be our home. Good work, kids.
Jef With One F is the author of The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette and Other Things I Learned In the Black Math Experiment, available now.