Staff Writer Sarah Perry, Illustrator Ava Morouse, and Deputy Arts Editor Grace Novarr attended CMTS’ December 3 performance of Rocky Horror, which took place in the Glicker-Milstein Theater at 8 pm.
The excitement was palpable as we filed into Barnard’s Glicker-Milstein theater to attend, for some of us, the first musical on campus since Spring 2019. Fellow audience members donned their most festive fits, as if they were going for a night of partying or clubbing, but we quickly realized that such outfits were quite appropriate to the vibe of the performance, which became more like a party than a play moments after it began. We were all “virgins,” meaning that we were new to the Rocky Horror live experience, although one of us had seen the movie and one of us had seen the Glee episode featuring Rocky Horror songs. We all didn’t quite know what to expect.
CMTS’ Rocky Horror Picture Show Shadow Cast was a theatre experience like no other. The actors performed as the original version of the 1975 Rocky Horror Picture Show played on a screen in the back of the theater behind the actors; they were not merely lip-syncing, but performing their hearts out. In addition to interacting with the original movie, the show interacted with the audience; our playbills included a list of cues for things we should call out at various moments in the show. For example, when Frank sings “I could show you my favorite obsession,” the audience was prompted to shout “SEX!” The show was even molded to fit its audience, as we were asked to yell out, “Tell that to Lee Bollinger!”
Friday’s show was preceded by a speech from director Camilla Cox (CC ‘22), who emphasized that Rocky Horror is a show about “radical joy.” As soon as the show began, it was clear what she meant. The joy of both actors and audience members was particularly palpable in a way that transcended our past theater experiences.
The plot of Rocky Horror is mostly nonsensical—the real point of the show, as we experienced it, and especially of an interactive “shadow cast” experience, is to showcase the performers’ sexiness and skill and to give the audience a damn good time. And this good time was certainly had.
The costumes, designed by Aleah Shockley (CC ‘23) were a real highlight of the show—corsets, fishnets, and high heels abounded, and every member of the cast got a moment to showcase their sex appeal. The fact that the actors were wearing high heels for many of the dance numbers only added to their impressiveness—there were several moments where the audience gasped after a particularly complex move was executed. There were lifts, spins, dips, and piles of gyrating bodies. The work of Sam Landa (GS ‘22), the choreographer, was, overall, astounding.
The cast was uniformly strong, including and especially the chorus of “Phantoms,” who contorted themselves throughout the show to perform many functions, including that of a table, a car, and a machine that creates life. Henri Vrod (CC ‘22) and Amelia Mason (BC ‘24) were convincing as Brad and Janet, a straight and straight-laced couple that rapidly learns the joys of sexual pleasure and gender non-conformity. Vrod’s arrogant masculinity and Mason’s wide-eyed, naïve femininity were perfectly stereotypical. While their singing was occasionally a little quiet (drowned out by the raucous cheers of the audience), this only served to emphasize the booming stage presence of Andie Hayes (SEAS ‘23) as Frank N Furter, the “sweet trans lover” that teaches Brad and Janet the joys of sexual deviation. Hayes was purely delightful, strutting up and down the stage in stilettos and a corset and perfectly embodying a confident, sexy alien (if such a thing can be perfectly embodied).
Beyond the costuming and performances, it was clear how much care and thought was invested in the modernization of some of the more outdated elements of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. As the 1975 film played “Sweet Transvestite” in the background, this production overpowered the song to replace glaringly outdated lyrics with “sweet trans beauty,” “trans wonder,” “trans lover,” a detail we appreciated that underlined the overt and joyous queerness of the show. Surprisingly, with these few alterations, the nearly 50-year-old cult classic was fresh-faced and rosy-cheeked for today’s audience.
We three Rocky Horror virgins, in fact, were invited to take our first steps into the cult tradition after intermission in the “virgin ceremony.” Along with most of the audience, we were invited onto the stage to be imprinted with a V on the forehead in bright red lipstick. Then, in a line, one by one, we were invited to perform our best sex moan. The more timid were allowed to do a pose or a dance move, but we proudly went all the way. After the show ended, we reveled in our Rocky Horror deflowering and now proudly call ourselves Rocky Whores, thanks to CMTS’ wonderful production and top-notch performance.
Some rocky horror via Ava Morouse