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Bustier move: Palozzi, Collins, Viele in A.C.T.’s Rocky Horror.

All the World Is Not a Stage
By James Yeara

The Rocky Horror Show
By Richard O’Brien, directed by Thomas Dalton Bambury

Albany Civic Theater, through Jan. 26

The Rocky Horror Show is an indestructible wonder. The 1973 stage-musical parody of 1950s sci-fi movie became the 1975 cult film classic, fueled by the audience participation that fully embodied Frank-N-Furter’s “Don’t Dream It, Be It” sentiment. Attending the film was a rite of passage, and the musical continues to be a hit: It recently closed at the Circle in the Square (a production starring Dick Cavett among other celebrities); there are innumerable undergrad productions across the nation every year; and there’s an officially sanctioned 30th Anniversary Tour in England. The Rocky Horror Show has become the safe way to rebel, to role-play, to connect across generations through feather boas and time-honored call and response. It’s near impossible not to have fun at The Rocky Horror Show, because the film and the first 100 times you shared responses buzz through your head. Sense memory is a powerful thing.

Albany Civic Theater’s current production of The Rocky Horror Show has an appropriate costume design by David Herrington, featuring some wonderful black latex/rubber fetish wear—as well as stockings, garters and bustiers, feather boas and mesh shirts. The hair/wig design by Loretta Romero and the makeup design by Karen Cash create a familiar look for Janet Weiss (Rebecca S. Bryden), Brad Majors (Dave Dixon), Columbia (Mary Pekins), et al. Fans of the movie will recognize what is being attempted.

The set design by Doug Peek and Mary Kozlowski features two fabric faux-flame torches extreme down right, a painted series of gothic arches in perspective extreme down left, and rope lights on the spiral staircase and all through the laboratory up center. Director and choreographer Thomas Dalton Bambury (who also sees duty as Eddie, Frank-N-Furter’s rock & rolling former lover) places his performers well about the stage. There is a clean, uncluttered, very measured feng shui of the stage here, slicker in places than Eddie’s DA. The pit band, under the direction of David Cash, captures the rhythms of The Rocky Horror Show and carries many tunes—especially “The Time Warp,” which had more “Macarena” in it than the raucous cult classic. In general, the singing on opening night seemed an afterthought. It left an impression akin to seeing a gaggle of Ken dolls dressed in black bondage wear: It’s kind of funny, but the Kens are still missing something essential.

The audience participation also proves to be a tricky thing. The 1993 national tour, which included Proctor’s Theatre, substituted a preshow game show in place of line responses in the show itself. The more intimate confines of Albany Civic Theater lend for entrances through the house aisles, but not much else. A.C.T.’s opening-night audience was split between the raucous friends and relatives in the back right of the house—who hollered and whooped at the end of most numbers—and the rest of the onlookers, who applauded but didn’t participate in the usual The Rocky Horror Picture Show banter. I missed the toast, the toilet paper, the rice, and the squirt guns of Rocky Horror past. The few who attempted tried-and-true responses were soon cowed, and the performers, though well-placed, seemed ill at ease with the audience. Some of the performers did make eye contact, but real audience participation calls for greater stuff. A.C.T.’s The Rocky Horror Show is like a Mardi Gras parade minus the beads and the booze.

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