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Fort Myers Theater's 'Rocky Horror' big on laughs and high on two midnight shows

Joey Bostic as Frank-N-Furter and Kagan Vann as Rocky.jpg
Tom Hall
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Joey Bostic (left) as Frank-N-Furter and Kagan Vann (right) as Rocky.jpg

In 1975, the Rocky Horror Picture Show was a box office flop. It grossed just a little more than $21,000, compared to the record-setting $260 million grossed by Jaws that year.

Jaws went on to spawn sequels, and a whole new genre of B-movies such as Orca, Piranha, The Meg and the self-parody Sharknado spoofs. But none have achieved the cult classic status that Rocky Horror has enjoyed over the past 47 years.

The story follows Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, an annoyingly sweet and innocent couple played to perfection by Parrish Danesh and Paola Cifuentes, who thrilled audiences last season as Gomez and Morticia Addams.

WGCU Rocky Horror - Brad Majors and Janet Weiss Head Over to Frankenstein's Place.jpg
Tom Hall
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Parrish Danesh as Brad Majors (right) and Paola Cifuentes as Janet Weiss (left).

As Brad and Janet, they set out to visit their college professor the night after they become engaged. Predictably, they get a flat tire during a terrible thunderstorm.

Since Brad obviously has no idea how to change a flat, they follow a light to a mysterious mansion they passed a few miles back. They arrive just as the castle’s staff, guests, and the androgynous master of the house, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, are about to celebrate the unveiling of his hunky, blond Charles Atlas-esque creation, Rocky.

Before they know what’s happening, Brad and Janet find themselves doing "The Time Warp" right along with everyone else. What then ensues can only be described as a bizarre journey replete with choreographed musical numbers, sexual escapades and otherworldly intrigue.

Director Robin Dawn Ryan says it’s the one of the dumbest scripts she’s ever read. But that gives her the latitude to mine the laughs in the story, which is precisely what she’s done in the production that opened this week at Fort Myers Theater.

“I didn’t want it to be a serious show because it’s not a serious story,” said Ryan.

“I wanted it to be funny. I want people to laugh. I want people to be able to laugh at themselves on some of the stuff that they see. I want them to laugh at all of the sexual orientation that is part of this show and know that’s just the way it is in the show but can almost be real life at the same time.”

WGCU - Rocky Horror 2.jpg
Tom Hall
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Joey Bostic as Frank-N-Furter (center). He played the role three years ago for New Phoenix Theatre, but in that production he was dark, sinister and downright intimidating. In this show, he’s more accessible and sympathetic. That’s because under Ryan’s direction, he and the rest of the show’s talented ensemble cast are going for the laughs instead of the horror.

Forget Tim Curry. Joey Bostic is a freak of theater in the role of Frank-N-Furter. He played the role three years ago for New Phoenix Theatre, but in that production he was dark, sinister and downright intimidating. In this show, he’s more accessible and (dare I say it?) sympathetic.

That’s because under Ryan’s direction, he and the rest of the show’s talented ensemble cast are going for the laughs instead of the horror.

“So the last time that I played Frank-N-Furter, we played a much darker version of Frank-N-Furter … narcissistic, still very sex positive, but very much the villain of the show,” said Bostic.

“In this one, we play him a lot more fun. The show is very campy than what we did before. We’re looking for the laughs, we’re looking for the horror inside the comedy as well, instead of looking for the comedy inside the horror.”

Rocky Horror is always big on laughs. But in this production, the laughs are monumental – as is the music and dance choreography.

Allison Lund, who plays Magenta, a voyeuristic alien from the planet Transsexual, expresses that she was happy to bust out her dancing shoes.

“I’ve been really impressed through this process of how dance heavy it is obviously," said Lund.

WGCU - Allison Lund as Magenta.jpg
Tom Hall
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Allison Lund as Magenta.

"She has a group of us that are either classically trained dancers or dance instructors. There’s a whole group of us that have various types of pretty extensive dance experience, so that’s really fun for me because that’s not something that adults get to do very often is dance class.”

A major factor underlying Rocky Horror’s multi-generational appeal is the show’s visual intrigue, fluid sexuality, irreverence and unique ability to create an environment where people who feel like outcasts and misfits can be themselves.

Songwriter and Rocky Horror creator Richard O’Brien expresses all of this, and more, through a songbook of catchy tunes that begins and ends with “Time Warp.”

♫ "(Narrator) It's just a jump to the left.

(Guests) And then a step to the right.

(Narrator) With your hands on your hips.

(Guests) You bring you knees in tight. But it's the pelvic thrust... That really drives you insane Let's do the Time Warp again. Let's do the Time Warp again. Let's do the Time Warp again"

Just as iconic as “Time Warp” is the Frank-N-Furter anthem “Sweet Transvestite.”

"Don't get strung out By the way I look Don't judge a book by its cover I'm not much of a man by the light of day But by night, I'm one hell of a lover

I'm just a sweet transvestite From Transsexual, Transylvania"

“It’s the titular moment where Frank-N-Furter first reveals himself to everyone,” Bostic points out.

“We choreographed it in a really fun way, so we get to play around with the phantoms a lot, with the different characters. Brad and Janet are running around the stage with me kind of chasing them around. It’s really a defining moment for Frank-N-Furter. He gets to set the stage for who he is as a character and a person.”

WGCU Rocky Horror 10 - Janet Gets to Know Rocky as a Phantom, Columbia and Magenta Look On.jpg
Tom Hall
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Janet gets to know Rocky as a phantom, Columbia and Magenta look on. The Rocky Horror Picture Show plays through October 30, 2022 at Fort Myers Theatre on San Carlos Boulevard.

While ballads like “Sweet Transvestite,” “Over at the Frankenstein Place” and “I’m Going Home” captivate, others guarantee to have the audience on their feet and in the aisles, dancing with the reckless abandon that has become synonymous with the Rocky Horror brand – like the ‘50s-style sock hop number “Hot Petootie.”

Rocky Horror fandom don’t just dance. Many come dressed as their favorite characters. And while the actors on stage break the fourth wall by talking directly to the audience, the audience breaks the fifth wall by calling out Brad, Janet and the other characters, and shouting back lines and the lame jokes the actors spout throughout the show.

While Robin Dawn Ryan’s cast is prepared for that, she has not permitted them to incorporate audience participation into their rehearsals.

“My actors … asked me the other day to do a practice with everyone yelling, and I said no,” Ryan divulges.

“I want everything to be spontaneous in this. I want everything to just happen. And I’ve told my cast to try to just continue doing the show and, and just keep going forward even though those comments are coming out, but I don’t want them to practice it and be prepared for it. I don’t want that. I want everything to just happen.”

WGCU - Rocky Horror.jpg
Tom Hall
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The Rocky Horror Picture Show plays now through October 30, 2022 at Fort Myers Theatre on San Carlos Boulevard.

Over the decades, another trademark of Rocky Horror is its midnight performances, and Fort Myers Theater offers two – October 22nd and 29th.

The crazies who come to the midnight shows will be given a tote bag of props they can toss at the actors on stage. That should be a piece of cake at Fort Myers Theater, where the stage sits at the bottom of rows of bleachered seats.

“It’s going to be much easier to throw things down on the stage than across the stage,” admits Ryan.

Joey Bostic can’t wait.

“The midnight shows just add in that whole element of Rocky Horror. If you’ve never seen it, you get to be a virgin coming to the show to see it.

If you have seen it, then you know exactly what to expect. We’re going to have the toilet paper rolls, we’re going to have confetti. We’re going to have all of those elements that just make the show so different from any other show that you would see.”

Parrish Danesh, who plays Brad, does cop to a little trepidation when it comes to the midnight performances.

WGCU Rocky Horror 9 - Fort Myers Theatre's Rocky Horror Cast.jpg
Tom Hall
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Fort Myers Theatre's Rocky Horror Cast

“It makes things exciting for us as actors on stage to get to interact with the audience that way, and it’s special. Just don’t be too mean to me when you’re out there ….”

But true to her character Magenta, Allison Lund says it’s part of the gig.

“If you’re gonna do Rocky Horror, you kind of need to own it," said Lund.

"We should be performing at midnight and we should be having things thrown at us and that’s what Rocky Horror is. This show is fun the 50th time. It’s fun the first time. No matter what, the show is colorful and loud and vibrant and exciting."

"For people who’ve been curious about the show or maybe never even heard of it and are only coming because they know somebody, I feel like it is time you find out what all the fuss is about. This is a cult classic and so if you aren’t already a part of the circle of people that think it’s exciting, well you’re missing out.”

The Rocky Horror Picture Show plays now through October 30th at Fort Myers Theatre on San Carlos Boulevard.

"Michael Rennie was ill the day the earth stood still But he told us where we stand And Flash Gordon was there in silver underwear Claude Raines was the invisible man Then something went wrong for Fay Wray and King Kong They got caught in a celluloid jam

Then at a deadly pace it came from outer space And this is how the message ran:

Science Fiction, Double Feature Dr. X will build a creature See androids fighting Brad and Janet Anne Francis stars in Forbidden Planet Oh-oh at the late night, double feature, picture show."

Please go here for play dates, times, ticket information and a complete cast list.

And if you’re planning to go to your very first Rocky Horror production, here’s the “virgin’s” guide to Rocky Horror Callouts by Playbill’s Kieron Cindric.

To read more stories about the arts in Southwest Florida visit Tom Hall's website: SWFL Art in the News.

Spotlight on the Arts for WGCU is funded in part by Naomi Bloom, Jay & Toshiko Tompkins, and Julie & Phil Wade.

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