Pioneer Theatre’s ravishing re-staging of “Rocky Horror” scintillatingly satiates our antici- (say it!) pation.
Editor’s note: The following review is of “The Rocky Horror Show” during Pioneer Theatre Company’s limited run from Oct. 21–31.
“I’m lucky, you’re lucky, we’re all lucky.”—Magenta
Thank the Theater Gods there is “The Rocky Horror Show” — as an antidote to the snoozefest “The Iceman Cometh.”
Fans of the “Rocky Horror” midnight movie are legion, while the stage play that preceded is not as well-known. But should be. As many attest, you haven’t truly enjoyed “Rocky Horror” without skilled, professional actors performing live on stage.
PTC’s production, the company’s third “Rocky Horror,” is a totally exhilarating, electrifying experience. A welcome on-your-knees worship.
It slays a recent mechanical production — devoid of wit, creativity, and charm — we endured in 2021 at the hit-or-miss Grand Theatre.
“I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey, but not as strange as Utah’s liquor laws.”—Narrator
As we each know, “Rocky Horror” is an affectionate spoof/homage to B movies — with a plot best not dwelt on in too much detail. Brad Majors (asshole!) and Janet Weiss (slut!) stumble onto Frank-N-Furter’s castle, and somewhat decadent hijinks ensue. And at PTC, several humorous Kama Sutra position homages also ensue.
Artistic Director Karen Azenberg, here as director/choreographer, helms this exceptional production and elevates it to new heights. No longer mere “Rocky Horror,” but now “Rockypaloosa.” Leaving the theater, it appears the city is celebrating this staging, with multiple “Rocky for Mayor” lawn placards on view.
Music Director Helen Gregory, a veteran of at least ten PTC shows, is a major contributor to this success. As if auditioning to be a Tabernacle organist, her keyboard is ablaze.
The hallmark of this production is the cast’s hefty vocals, strong enough to blow off the theater roof and freshly re-visiting the franchise characters. Along with two entrancing local actors, the cast includes many Broadway and West End veterans.
Jeremiah Jones was a cast member of the recent “Funny Girl” revival and earned accolades as Nick Arnstein when star Ramin Karimloo wasn’t on stage. As Frank-N-Furter, Jones is commanding, giddily butterfly-fliting across the stage. His joyful perfection is never more endearing than when luxuriating on a gliding divan in a Norma Desmond headpiece, a standout design of Costumer Aaron Swenson.
Stripped to what the ensemble of Phantoms decry as “nice Jesus jammies,” Alex Walton as Brad and Alanna Saunders as Janet are a spunky, audience-embraced couple.
Frank’s courtiers — Ginger Bess as Magenta, Hernando Umana as Riff Raff, and Micki Matrinez as Columbia — are a tremendously talented trifecta. Bess is one of the state’s most popular chanteuses, and Martinez, a recent U. grad, holds a remarkable record: she became an actors’ union member without leaving town, performing solely on the PTC stage to earn the vaulted status.
Michael Dalke crafts a wholly new character while still in the Rocky mold as a sexually savvy dimwit. Created by Frank to be his muscular boy toy, Dalke has bulges in all the right places, along with slap-worthy bouncing butt cheeks. His arresting, drooling characterization is one for the record books.
“You’re very lucky to be invited up to Frank’s laboratory, a lot of people would give their right arm for the privilege.”—Columbia
While George Maxwell announced “Something Rotten!” as his swan song, the charms of “Rocky Horror” enticed him back to scenic design. Others less gifted would paint the inside of the castle doors black and call it quits. But Maxwell is a master craftsman. His flawless attention to detail led him to punctuate character entrances when the door opens to reveal blinding ruby-red-slipper sparkles, outshining Dorothy’s triumphant pumps.
For more than four decades, rising from fledgling prop master to lauded resident set designer, Maxwell has enchanted audiences. Watch “The World Is a Stage: A Career Retrospective With George Maxwell” on PTC’s YouTube channel to become familiar with his excellence.
“Give yourself over to absolute pleasure. Swim the waters of sins of the flesh. Erotic nightmares beyond any measure.”—Frank-N-Furter
Clutch my pearls, in a first, there are Sunday PTC performances, surely offending the state’s domineering religion. In the 1993–94 season, with the flamboyant emcee in “Cabaret” and a black Romeo in “Romeo and Juliet,” that corporate funding shifted to the much-less-worthy Hale Centre Theatre in Sandy. Lost and not missed.
“We all lived happily ever after,” explained Colleen Lindstrom, patron services manager during the kerfuffle.
Also happy are PTC theatergoers who roaringly respond to this resplendent “Rocky Horror” production with deafening whoops and hollers.
“It was an enjoyable experience, was it not? You did like it, didn’t you?”—Frank
Thank you, Theater Gods. And thank you, Pioneer Theatre Company.