The Rocky Horror Picture Show is an internationally appreciated cult classic musical film, often performed around Halloween. The hit movie (and musical) held two performances this past weekend at our very own Michigan Theater. I was lucky enough to catch their annual performance on Saturday at 9:30, and it lived up to every expectation as an absolute riot from start to finish. It’s a lively and goofy movie with notable characters like the innocent Brad and Janet, thoughtless yet sincere Rocky, and the tremendously memorable transvestite, Frank-N-Furter. This performance is absolutely an 18+ experience, with many sexual innuendos, violence, intense language and adult themes (which is no surprise if you know the show). The film has the longest-running release in film history and was even adapted again into a more modern TV-film in 2016 on Fox. Forty-eight years later, the film still plays in theaters all around the country, often with a live amateur ‘shadow cast’ that mimes the actors on the big screen. There were shouts and roars from the costumed audience of classic lines to be accurately called out at certain points in the film. It is definitely not your average ‘night at the movies’ at all…
The film was released in the fall of 1975 in the UK and USA. It was directed by the Australian director Jim Sharman, who was widely known for producing many kinds of experimental theater. He has a decorated list of theatrical directing credentials from across the world, with a few major films that hit the theaters through the 70s. The screenplay was adapted by Sharman and the UK’s own Richard O’Brien based on O’Brien’s original 1973 musical. The musical premiered that year in the UK, including the iconic Tim Curry, who reprised his role as Frank-N-Furter in the 1975 original movie. The first West End cast performance was dubbed a ‘creative and commercial success’. Initial reception to the film, however, was extremely negative, but it later became a hit as a ‘midnight movie’ that aired late into the evenings on television stations, and from there, a quintessential cult classic.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is understood to have been a great influence on countercultural and sexual liberation in the 1960s and even through today. It was one of the first popular musicals that depicted fluid sexuality during a time of generational divisiveness and growing advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights. Today, this continues to be true as queer folks work to create more LGBTQ+ friendly space in the arts, and annual productions of Rocky Horror reinforce the necessary space yearly through this vessel. This precedent is set by the characters in the show: they are not confined by gender, and many different identities of performers take on the ‘shadow cast’ roles, keeping the show undoubtedly fresh. The “look” of each character does stay consistent, their costuming/hair and such, but many things can and have been adapted in various performances. Historically, the costuming of the show affected the development of many punk rock fashion trends, with the colored hair, fishnet stockings, and colorfully flamboyant make-up.
The ‘shadow cast’ of this production did a fantastic job of depicting the drama on screen. A ‘shadow cast’ is not something that is often seen in movie theater settings, so it was a lot of fun to experience. It was difficult to light the actors because of the movie playing right behind the stage, so often it was hard to see. Although, the energy of the acts was understood from the back of the house, and their exuberant costumes filled the space left by a lack of set. I commend these folks for their accurate and entertaining work as the ‘shadow cast’ of the film, and for their commitment to the tradition of Rocky Horror!
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a must-see musical film, and a hilariously memorable experience. I sincerely enjoyed the performances from the ‘shadow cast’ and seeing this movie for the first time in theaters. The actors and the crowd were absolute pandemonium, and I enjoyed my time from start to finish. The experience in theaters is definitely a unique one, and I would urge folks interested to make an evening of it and enjoy the show. Rocky Horror is an annual occurrence at the Michigan Theater and sells out nearly every time, so be sure to get your tickets early. It’s a Halloween festivity not to be missed!
Image from the film, thanks to IMDb.