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September 30, 2009

Theater: Pandora opens season with cult hit Rocky Horror

(Pandora Productions presents “The Rocky Horror Show,” directed by Michael J. Drury. Continues through Oct. 4 at the Bunbury Theatre in the Henry Clay Building, 604 S. Third St. For tickets and more info, call 216-5502 or visit www.PandoraProds.org.)

 

Pandora Productions kicks off its fifth season with “The Rocky Horror Show,” a musical that often relies on a participating, costumed audience to make the show worth attending. And so there’s that slim chance that the actual show isn’t worth watching, but Pandora proves this musical is, indeed, worth it.

The show begins with a narrator, the hilarious Ted Lesley, perched above the stage. He sets up the story of a young, virginal couple, Brad (Mike Fryman) and Janet (Taylor Schultz), who become stranded in a rainstorm and wander, in search of a telephone, into the castle of a mad scientist. There they meet an array of eclectic characters, including Riff Raff (Dan Canon), Magenta (Susan Crocker), Columbia (Laura Ellis) and, of course, Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Christopher H. Cherry). And as the night progresses, Brad and Janet lose more than just their innocence.

This is not a show for an uptight actor (or audience, for that matter), and for the first few numbers, there are some members of the cast who seem to have second thoughts about wearing suggestive costumes and performing pelvic thrusts. But soon the confidence rises and the show hits its stride. By the time the second act begins, things go smoothly.

The cast works well together to create the world of the play, thanks to director Michael J. Drury. It is Cherry, though, as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, who leads this ensemble from the moment he unabashedly walks out in a corset and garter belt. He owns the stage as well as Frank’s spectrum of overdramatic emotion. His dry wit quickly turns into melodramatic weeping — both usually coming from a place of lust — but he fully commits to the moment-to-moment emotion of his character, no matter how ridiculous.

And the chorus of Phantoms, composed of 10 strong singers, helps the show along. (The song “I’m Going Home” really shows off their vocal abilities.) The Phantoms reside beside the audience when not participating in the large musical numbers, but even when unseen, their voices fill the space.

The solo voices stand out over the chorus and five-piece orchestra thanks to sound designer A.J. McKay and technical director Karl Anderson. This is the first production in the space to use body mics, and except for a few kinks, they are successful and will hopefully be used again.

Theresa Bagan’s lighting design and Anderson’s set design complement each other; the vivid, colorful lights against the sterile set create the off-kilter feel of a laboratory of the mad scientist. And the multiple levels and playing areas provide a nice space for Christephor Gilbert’s choreography. Drury’s direction keeps the main action of the play primarily in the foreground, but the running around (literally) makes the space feel much larger than it is.

Not only does Pandora’s production of “The Rocky Horror Show” fit its mission to produce rarely seen live productions, it also proves that many of these rarely seen works are worth watching.