October 1, 2015, by Reid Reimers, Missoulian
Missoula loves Halloween and traditions abound at this time of year. Whether it’s pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating, or late night cavorting in costumes, our community embraces this macabre holiday.
For proof, one needs to look no further than the theatrical offerings being slated for this Halloween.
With the success of last year’s “Jekyll and Hyde,” The Missoula Community Theatre will again lean away from their usual family friendly fair with “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”
Stephen Sondheim’s musical is a sophisticated, visceral and uncompromising show, mixing intense drama with howlingly funny moments of dark humor. The show stars well-known local actor Chris Torma as the sadistic Sweeney Todd, and recent transplant Roxanne Jackson as the cannibalistic baker, Mrs. Lovett.
The Stensrud Playhouse is also getting into the Halloween spirit, hosting “The Halloween Hoedown Homicide” in late October. Participants will find themselves in Grizzly Ghost Town, attending an annual shindig at the haunted Stensrud Saloon. With food and drink being served, it sounds like fun, but as a murder mystery party, you can be sure at least one participant is going to have a bad time.
For thousands of Missoulians, however, the most anticipated show of the season is “The Rocky Horror Show Live.” For the fourth year, the Montana Actors’ Theatre will bring the cult classic to the stage, returning to the newly remodeled Wilma Theatre. This live performance is a fresh take on the risqué, gender-bending romp made famous by the 1975 film. While it stays true to the rampant fan culture that surrounds the iconic movie, it also offers a theatrical experience like no other.
For one thing, audience members shirk the usual theatrical attire, with men and women alike donning fishnets, corsets and ridiculously high heels. Pre-show activities are also a break from the norm, with performances by yhe Cigarette Girls Burlesque Troupe and the iconic “de-virgination” ceremony for first-time attendees. But it is the rampant audience participation that really sets the show apart.
Far from sitting quietly, Rocky Horror audiences become a major character in the show. They shout back at famous lines, hurl insults at characters, and dance along to “The Time Warp.” Even better, prop bags are available at each show that contain items that are thrown, blown or worn on the head. Needless to say, this is not your grandma’s musical.
But the production does not rely on gimmick. The show features some of the best-known actors and designers in town for a production of the highest caliber. As The Missoulian reported of Rocky’s 2009 inaugural performance, “… the show was simply spectacular, with an array of local talent and a glitzy production that equaled anything you’d find in a city 10 times our size.” Many of the performers have been voted “Best Actor in Missoula”, including Jeff Medley, who returns as Riff Raff, and Reid Reimers, back in the heels of Dr. Frank N Furter” As director and choreographer, Heather Adams has many won awards herself, and musical director Lizzie Hatfield has lent her talents to dozens of Missoula’s best loved shows.
Though an all-ages show, Rocky does contain adult themes and partial nudity. Tickets are $30 for general admission, or $45 for tabled “hot seats” with drink service. Performances run Thursday, Oct. 29, at 8 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 31, at 8 p.m. and Midnight. Tickets available at thewilma.com or at rockyhorrormissoula.com.
Missoula Community Theatre’s “Sweeney Todd” runs Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 15-18, and Wednesday through Sunday, Oct. 21-25. Tickets are $23-$25 and can be purchased online at mcinc.org.
The Stenrud’s “Halloween Hoedown Homicide,” an original murder-mystery dinner theater production, runs Saturday-Sunday, Oct. 24-25 and Friday-Saturday, Oct. 30-31. All shows start at 7 p.m. and take place at the Stensrud, 314 N. First St. W. To purchase tickets, go to stensrudplayhouse.com.