The Rocky Horror Show hits the community theatre stage thanks to Toronto’s Curtain Call Players
It’s late October, and you know what that means: time to slip on some fishnets, dust off your stripper heels, and make your way to the nearest theatre. It’s Rocky season, darling.
This year, you can pick from a good half-dozen productions all over the city: the LOT is running a revival downtown, the film is screening at the Bloor, and way up in North York, a community group is mounting a lo-fi but high-energy mount of The Rocky Horror Show.
Curtain Call Players have scads of experience with musicals. How well do they handle this modern classic?
This is a talented company. The entire cast sings and moves with verve and enthusiasm—and they can sing! Fiona Johnson (playing Magenta and Trixie) stands out: her songs suited her range perfectly, and she completely nails Magenta’s sultry attitude. Twaine Ward (as Frank ‘N’ Furter) also deserves plaudits, and not just because of his willingness to go on stage in a corset, fishnets, and what might be described as a coin purse. But these are only two strong links in an exceptionally good—and exceptionally large—ensemble.
And that may be the biggest problem.
The decision to use the whole fifteen-member chorus in all but two numbers undercuts a lot of that success. While some of the staging choices are compelling and effective—the crowded party during Hot Patootie springs to mind, as does the introduction to the castle—the delightfully-costumed chorus spend most of the show essentially filling space, neither participating in nor augmenting the action. This crowds the stage, sucks the energy out of certain scenes, and necessitates the use of microphones by the principal cast numbers.
Keith O’Connell’s scaffold-based set is used cleverly, the band (under the direction of Steve Lavoie) make excellent work of the always-brilliant score, and the costumes (Carmen Amini & Chiffarobe) are a highlight of the evening. Unfortunately, the spotlights (which often missed the mark) felt unnecessary, while the poor vocal mixing produced feedback loops, created a few awkward silences, and garbled several of the script’s key lines.
This is all especially frustrating because this is not a bad company. There is some great acting, singing and dancing in this show. We just needed to see, hear and feel it better. Technical problems and directorial choices got in the way of otherwise-wonderful performances, and that’s a pity.
By far the best part of the show—and the only part where the audience was moved to stand up and dance along—was the final reprise of the show’s core songs. Here, the entire cast was allowed to dance and move freely, and it showed them at their absolute best. This chorus is capable of far more than standing in a perfectly straight line, making repetitive motions in unison: it’s a pity that they were only allowed to realize their full potential at the very end.
But despite these problems, my guest—who had never seen Rocky Horror before—loved it. The cast’s energy and enthusiasm still shines through, Richard O’Brien’s score is brilliant as ever (even if the lyrics are occasionally garbled by the sound system), and the show as a whole is still a damn good time.
– The Rocky Horror Show is playing at the York Woods Library Theatre (1785 Finch Ave. West) until November 3rd.
– Performance dates: Wednesday the 31st, 10:00 PM; Thursday the 1st at 8:00 PM; Friday the 2nd at 8:00 PM; Saturday the 3rd at 2:00 PM.
– Tickets are $26, students $22.
– Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (416-703-6181) or at the door.