Although more fans know the comical musical from the 1975 film version, if any performance was made for the stage, The Rocky Horror Show is. The current production at URI Theatre is demonstrating this in full fright-wig fervor through December 12.
LET THEM ENTERTAIN YOU Bernap and Sederquist.
Audience participation assured the cult classic's claim to fame, though the program politely requests that theatergoers refrain from throwing rice at the opening wedding scene, squirting water pistols during the storm scene, and so on. (Traditional wisecracks, however, were skillfully inserted between lines by one contingent at the matinee I attended, with no interruption to the flow. In an update, as Brad and Janet are disrobed, one wit piped up with: "What's this, the TSA?")
We know from the first moments that this is going to be a good production. A projection of red-slicked lips, per the movie opening, gives us our cell phone and exit instructions. The Usherettes (Shannon Hartman and Betsy Rinaldi) musically introduce us to the show with snap and style. And the song they are singing, "Science Fiction Double Feature," is perfectly timed with scenes from the trashy 1950s horror and sci-fi movies referred to in the lyrics. Paula McGlasson has directed with fine attention to detail.
Brad and Janet, the white-bread young couple whose car breaks down one stormy night and sends them knocking on the door of a castle, are played with properly terrified innocence by Jesse Dufault and Stephanie Rita Morgan, laying the contrast to their later Fruit of the Loom-and-pointy bra sexual liberation.
The dark star around which all the preposterous action revolves is, of course, the lord of the castle, Frank 'n' Furter, the self-described "sweet transvestite" from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy Transylvania. Andrew Bernap plays him with commanding, mischievously sinister presence. He sings "I Can Make You a Man" (Frank means that literally) with wicked glee. He is surrounded by a troop of ghoulish Phantoms and his seductive assistants Magenta and Columbia (Hartman and Rinaldi, again in fine form, with the Columbia character the one in purple, just to mess with us). Riff Raff, Frank 'n' Furter's skulking, hollow-eyed majordomo (played by Johnny Sederquist), is a funny guy even when he doesn't have lines.
A key character in the show is the creature of Frank 'n' Furter, Rocky, whom we first see in a diaper and sprinkled with glitter, to indicate sparkling newness. The role is usually incidental, despite being in the title, but Cory Crew does much with it, giving the character character. Bleached blonde and the apparent product of countless hours in the gym, Crew is more than physically spot-on — he gives personality to a cipher who has little dialogue.
This isn't one of those musicals with songs that don't linger past their first humming in the shower. How can a show that has "The Time Warp" near the beginning instead of as a rousing Act One ender not be full of other good stuff? (The program, by the way, has illustrated step-by-step instructions for doing the Time Warp, most appropriately done in locker room showers with others.)