Thursday, October 18, 2007

Rocky Horror Show Dazzles and Delights

Freaks Alive – the Rocky Horror Show is back in Chicago. Opening last night (Oct. 17) at the Mercury Theater, the show, which most of us know from the movie that came two years after the 1973 London stage show, was an explosion of music, comedy and fun.

Walking into the dark theater filled with billowy (if not a little suffocating) smoke, the scene is set and as soon as the lights dimmed and the Phantoms (essentially the chorus) slink down the aisles with their vampy clothes, ripped abs, raccoon-like eye makeup and sexiness oozing from every pore.

Rocky Horror follows the familiar plot from the movie, but in a much tighter, more focused chronology. Brad (played by the geek-sexy Tony DiFalco) and Janet (played sweetly and innocently by Dina DiCostanzo) get trapped in a web of fishnets, trannies and experiments of the flesh when their car gets a flat and stumble upon a castle in the middle of nowhere. Greeted by Riff Raff (Robert Felbinger) and his steamy sis, Magenta (played fiercely by Molly Callinan, frontwoman for the band Catfight), the couple quickly – if not horrifyingly – fall into place with "the master's" clan before being greeted by the master himself. If anyone was born to fill the platform boots of the sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania, it was Scott Alan Jones. Reprising the role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Jones commands every eye when he makes his dramatic first entrance – and won't let you look away until he's blown away at the end.

From start to finish, with memorable tracks like "Damn It, Janet," "Hot Patootie" and the classic "Time Warp," Rocky Horror is one helluva a ride of debauched madness and hilarity. The only down points – and there are only two – come with the introduction of "Eddie," (played hysterically by Amy Armstrong – and performed by Meat Loaf in the movie). It seemed like Eddie just appears, without any really explanation, and is then run off stage by a chainsaw-wielding Frank. His body parts later appear in a blood-stained sack.

Another odd moment was at the end of the second act. Following the deaths of Rocky, Columbia and Frank -- and the departure of Magenta and Riff Raff to their home planet, there's a lag in time where the audience looked around, wondering what was coming next. In essence we're lead to believe – through smoke and flashing lights – that the duo's spaceship is taking off, but it just didn't really hit the mark. Fortunately this was only opening night and the cast has time to pull the low points (including sometimes clumsily passing microphones off to one another; and sadly there's nothing that can help the lackluster stage set) up to meet the rest of the great show. – Ari Bendersky

Rocky Horror at the Mercury Theater (3745 N. Southport, 773/325-1700) runs through Nov. 28 with performances on Mondays and Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 11 p.m., Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 11 p.m., and Sundays at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $30 to $42.50.