Comicpalooza: The Shadow Casts Come Out at Night

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Your humble narrator was part of a Rocky Horror Picture Show shadow cast for the better part of a decade. I spent every Saturday night in Frank-n-Furter's fishnets singing "Sweet Transvestite" and soaking up the unique ambience of carnival and cabaret that comes from the experience. There is simply nothing like it. They don't call it a cult classic for nothing.

You can get the same experience once a month at the River Oaks Theatre here in Houston, but the After Midnight Cast specializes in rolling road shows that bring the magic and mockery to wherever it might be appropriate. This weekend at Comicpalooza they'll set-up shop with three different performances.

Of course they'll do Rocky, but the experience is somewhat different than the one people have been flocking to at midnight for the last three decades.

Flashback A Salute to Classic Midnight Movies, from Rocky Horror to Eraserhead

"We have found con audiences to be more receptive than regular shadow cast audiences," said cast director Van Fontana. "They get really into it because they've never been to anything like our shows before. Shadow Cast shows are a great way to let off steam and contribute to the over all good time/party time atmosphere of a convention."

All the hallmarks of a good performance are there, and After Midnight uses their full array of props and costumes to mimic the action on screen down below. It's like a rock band, but with more lingerie and the heckling is choreographed.

The shadow cast phenomenon has outgrown just Rocky, though, and After Midnight has embraced a wider range of movies to showcase. Currently, they also perform Repo: The Genetic Opera, a dark tale of organ failure in a dystopian future full of grave-robbing, murder, and most of all song.

Repo has always been ripe for shadow casting, with its colorful costumes, bombastic music, sexual vibe, and bold rejection of everything mainstream. The fact that it stars Anthony Head, who is widely considered the greatest stage Frank-n-Furter of all time further bonds the world of Rocky and Repo together. Now if we could just get Richard O'Brien and Terrance Zdunich in a room together we might actually craft the most perfectly fucked up musical ever.

"Repo holds up well as a shadow cast production," said Fontana. "It is by far the most popular show we do with standing room only at each performance. Our cast performs Repo with actors actually singing and acting along with the film as opposed to mime. The audience tends to take it more seriously and doesn't do call lines."Flashback Glee Does Rocky Horror Proud

Another new addition perfect for the geek crowd is Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, which stars Neil Patrick Harris as an aspiring super villain who keeps his fans entertained with a video blog detailing his attempts to enter the League of Evil. It was a surprise low-budget hit, and maybe once Whedon is done with Avengers 2 we'll finally get to see a follow-up.

It certainly lends itself to a more light-hearted Rocky Horror approach, and After Midnight has gone to great lengths to present it as such. Full costume recreations are used as well as audience sing-alongs, and call lines are encouraged.

Captain Hammer: "Some of you are wondering what the mayor is doing behind closed doors."

Audience response: "His secretary!"

OK, so it's got a little ways to go, but the film has the same halting pacing of Rocky Horrorthat lends itself well to rude interruption. Don't be afraid to waltz in and shout at the screen, because After Midnight is taking an art form that was in grave danger of dying out to a whole new audience thanks to venues like Comicpalooza.

Do you like the music of Rocky Horror? Check out our ultimate cover mixtape. Also, Dr. Horrible was one of the characters we wanted added to Poker Night 2.

Jef With One F is a recovering rock star taking it one day at a time. You can read about his adventures in The Bible Spelled Backwards or connect with him on Facebook.

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