Missoula’s ‘Rocky Horror’ gets glam-rock makeover

Missoula’s ‘Rocky Horror’ gets glam-rock makeover

Jay Pyette

October 21, 2015, by Cory Walsh, Missoulian

Fans of “The Rocky Horror Show Live” can expect a few new twists and kinks in the cult classic this year, as the Montana Actors’ Theatre presents its fifth Missoula production on Halloween weekend.

“We haven’t changed any of the traditions with it, but it certainly has new lipstick on it,” said director Rosie Ayers.

She’s gone back to the original roots, when creator Richard O’Brien wrote it as a stage musical, about a square, straight couple who visit a castle inhabited by a mad scientist in fishnets, Dr. Frank N’ Furter, his sidekick Riff Raff, and learn a little something about letting their freak flag fly.

“I researched a lot of his influences and inspirations of the time and really pushed and played into those rather flamboyantly,” she said. “It has a lot more of the ’70s glam rock and punk rock era to it that is layered in with the satirical, goth-horror B-rated films that it’s really based off.”

She looked at the “androgynous yet highly sexual rock movement” of the early 1970s – artists like Johnny Rotten, “Ziggy Stardust”-era David Bowie, Brian Eno, plus some Blondie and Pat Benatar for good measure.

That influence has been spread like so much glitter across the costumes and the choreography, and the whole show really.

Choreographer Heather Adams said she watched videos of the Sex Pistols, David Bowie and Jim Morrison to look for cues. They didn’t move around on stage as much as you’d expect, she said, which means she had to draw on attitude instead.

“It’s tough to choreograph attitude, because that comes from within the actor,” she said.

“It’s the same with any choreographic signature. When you’re determining a movement signature for a piece of musical theater, you do start with an attitude. Is this happy, is this sad, is it angsty? You are starting with a feeling,” she said.

Then she developed the steps, and the final ingredient is that attitude the actor conveys.

What is it, then, that Reid Reimers brings to the stage in his fourth year as Dr. Frank N’ Furter?

“A lot of legs,” said Reimers, who stands at 6-foot-6, and reaches 7-foot-3 in the good doctor’s signature heels.

Ayers said it’s more than height, though.

“It’s not just his physical looming and intense nature, it is really the breadth and the weight of that character,” Ayers said.

The character stands for personal freedom, she said, “to choose how you behave and who you behave with.”

Reimers is joined by much of the cast from last year, including Jeff Medley as Riff Raff, Thain Bertin as Brad Majors, Nathan McTague as the narrator, Amy Lala as Magneta, to name just a few. “Rocky” newcomer Samantha St. Onge plays Brad’s wife, Janet.

Lizzie Webb, a veteran of local theater productions, is directing the live band.

Reimers, also acting as producer, keeps coming back for a leather-clad handful of reasons. For one, the company always goes back to the script to find ways to keep it fresh. Second, they’re not trying to recreate the film, as some live productions do. He’s not obliged to impersonate Tim Curry, the original actor in the role. Third, there’s the audience, who are invited to shout lines, sing along, or throw items into the crowd.

“There is nothing like performing in ‘Rocky Horror,’ ” Reimers said. He said it operates as both a rock show and a “legitimate, highly produced, well-rehearsed musical.”

“There is a wall of energy and excitement and joy that comes off that audience,” he said.

One Change in the show this year applies to the audience.

“Rocky Horror” is the first theatrical event on the virgin stage of the new Wilma Theatre, with a new lighting system and red curtain.

Not to say other improvements, for which the production is making one change.

Audience members are asked to leave at home the traditional rice and toilet paper that are thrown around at other shows. Prop bags are available for purchase.

They describe this iteration of the show as PG-13, walking a “couple of fine lines between racy and raunchy,” Reimers said.

There’s the message, too, which they said has kept the show alive for more than four decades.

“For people that often feel outside of their tribe, they realize there’s all sorts of freaks and kinkbots out there who are kind of kept in the shadows of our cutesy culture,” Reimers said.