Rocky Horror Wiith Puppets Puts a Twist on a Cult Classic
by Dana Giusti
Cross-dressing aliens, sexy costumes, and non-stop screaming—for most, these things are reserved exclusively for Halloween; for fans of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, it’s just another evening. Nevertheless, this particular showing was special; Gloaming Productions and Touch Me Philly presented a live performance of The Rocky Horror Show—with puppets!
I am sorry to report that I missed the beginning of the show due to getting the theaters mixed up (it was performed at Vox Populi Aux Space AND The Ruba Club on different nights); however, I arrived just in time to hear the innocent, unsuspecting lovebirds Brad Majors (played by Jonathen Wurzel) and Janet Weiss (Rachel Penny) sing “Over at the Frankenstein Place” as they begin their wild night with the aliens of Transsexual, Transylvania.
The actors were fantastic—Brad and Janet were the perfect squares-gone-wild; Magenta (played by the show’s producer, Alyson Rodriguez-Orenstein) portrayed a perfect combination of wacky and creepy. Hands down, the best performance came from Taylor Horne, whose racy portrayal of Dr. Frank N Furter added an extra spank to the show.
Considering it was billed as The Rocky Horror Show “With Puppets”, I was surprised by the minimal puppet population. The only full puppet was the criminologist narrator, who spoke from his own private booth rather than the stage. Rocky, portrayed by Alex Vogelsong, was a sort of puppet hybrid; the costume consisted of a full-body inflatable muscle suit, complete with an appropriately huge, dopey-looking head. Closing the show with the reprise of “Science Fiction Double Feature” was a puppet version of the infamous red lips; they were operated by an actress inconspicuously clad in black but for her fishnet-stocking-clad legs.
Aside from the puppets and performers, actors were creatively utilized as props–one served as the windshield wipers to Brad’s car; another ran across the stage holding a stick with a spaceship attached, representing the aliens’ return to Transylvania. The actor-props made for an entertaining addition.
Unfortunately, the performers’ microphones were dysfunctional throughout the show. The live band, while very talented, easily drowned out the actor’s temperamental mics. Rocky’s mic went back and forth from sounding staticy to cutting out entirely. The biggest sound victim was Eddie, performed by Dana Bee; her mic didn’t work at all during her song “Hot Patootie”.
Despite the sound issues, it was clear the audience was having a great time, undoubtedly because they were clearly familiar with the notoriously audience-participation-heavy show. They enthusiastically shouted out famous lines (anytime Brad’s name was spoken, they yelled “Asshole!”; Janet’s, “Slut!”) and used props (throwing a sheet of toilet paper when Brad says “Great Scott!”) The producers wisely raised money for the theater company by selling inexpensive participation bags, which included the toilet paper as well as party hats (to wear during “Time Warp”).
If I had been unfamiliar with the show’s story, I would have been completely lost due to the audio issues; despite this concern, the show was extremely enjoyable, and director Amanda Sylvester did a great job bringing the cult classic to the stage. I can’t wait to see the next development from Touch Me Philly.
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