Review: “The Rocky Horror Show” in San Anselmo

If being hit on the head by a piece of sponge form toast or across the face by a flying condom isn’t your cup of tea, then perhaps you’ll want to avoid Marin Musical Theatre Company’s The Rocky Horror Show, which has two remaining performances at The Playhouse in San Anselmo on All Hallows’ Eve.   

Richard O’Brien’s 1973 musical tribute to cheesy genre films combined with an early celebration of gender fluidity was not much of a success on the American stage its first time around and the 1975 film adaptation was pretty much a flop. It wasn’t until it was booked as a midnight movie that the Rocky Horror phenomenon began.

The strange tale of Brad Majors (Lorenzo Alviso) and Janet Weiss (director Jenny Boynton) and the night their car broke down near the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Jake Gale) as he unveils his latest creation (Michael Lumb) is an amalgam of horror and sci-fi film plots. Add an evil butler (Nelson Brown), an inquisitive science professor (Ken Adams), and various fishnet stockinged, bustier and spiked heel-wearing hangers-on and you have a show.

The cast of “The Rocky Horror Show”

Modern stage versions of the show have adapted the audience ‘callbacks’ that are an integral part of the cinematic Rocky Horror experience. As someone who was a regular at midnight screenings in the late 1970’s, I can tell you that those callbacks have grown cruder and lewder (and funnier) over the last 40 years as have directors’ approaches to the show in general. I think it loses something for it.

In the zeal to go as over the top as possible, the show loses a great deal of its heart, and the show does have heart. It’s in the music – particularly the wistful “I’m Coming Home” and the celebration of individuality of “Don’t Dream It, Be It” – and it can be in the characters if directed with that in mind.

Or, the show can be treated like a giant Halloween party, which is the approach taken here. The converted gymnasium venue, its set (or lack thereof), and technical issues gave it the feel and look of a “hey kids, let’s put on a show” production. The cast is energetic, the vocals (when properly mic’d) are good, and most of the tamer-than-I-expected-them-to-be audience seemed to be having a good time.

If you don’t mind cast members draping their half-nude bodies across yours, so will you.

Marin Musical Theatre Company’s ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ plays Thursday, October 31 (Halloween) at the Playhouse in San Anselmo, 27 Kensington Rd., San Anselmo. Performances at 6 pm and 9 pm. $27–$50. 800.838.3006. marinmusicals.org.

Photos by Katie Wickes

This review originally appeared in an edited version in the Pacific Sun.

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