Monday, October 13, 2014

It wouldn't be horrorble if you missed this

Garrett Dill and Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako in The Rocky Horror Show (Jeff Carpenter)
The Rocky Horror Show
Seattle Musical Theatre
Through October 18, 2014

I’d like to be kind. I want Seattle Musical Theatre to have great big hits and lots of people attending. Aspects of The Rocky Horror Show are fun (costuming is good, lights and set are good), but overall, the musical, especially the steamless second act, is pretty much a mess.

The performers all seem invested, and it seems fun for them. So, that’s a good start. The video featuring Peggy Platt as the narrator and Lisa Koch as her butler is a great addition. There are a few performers who stand out, including Joel Domenico as Frank (though his flagging energy in the second act is part of the problem), Hisam Goueli, a surprisingly effective Rocky, and the game-for-anything talented Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako as Janet. But Nako can’t be the whole show.

Now that Rocky is 40 years old, most people know that it was supposed to shake up a conservative culture with transvestites and a couple of “good kids” stranded on the road for whom sex was an exotic and forbidden fruit, and an alien planet fantasy thrown in. Iconic songs are replete through the musical and people have seen the movie version dozens or hundreds of times.

Audiences treat the stage musical with the same irreverence as the movie, despite the jarring rudeness of yelling crap at real live actors who can hear you and are in the middle of working. Some of that is funny and some of it, especially the ruder scatological comments that have developed over time (the early yellers didn’t get as rude or graphic) sound even more rude in a live show. But you get that at SMT and the performers know it’s coming and basically can ignore it well.

The atmosphere is enjoyably camp with usherettes Brynne Geiszler and Ellen Dessler gamely setting the mood. The first act is energetic and works the best. The choreography is not nearly distinct enough and ends up looking often like people were making it up as they went along.

The musicians, headed by Kim Dare, did a fine job and were part of the success, though the balance of sound over the band was very problematic. I almost always wish the band were just unmiked entirely so that the singers can always be heard. The band is always loud enough. Always.

Having just seen a much better production of Man of La Mancha, I can confidently say that not every show is like this. Coming up is Fiddler on the Roof (November 7-23), Sweet Charity (February 13-March 1) and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (April 10-26). Let’s look forward to those.

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