By Cookeville standards, theater giant Mark Creter couldn’t jump any further to the left, so, with his latest production of the Rocky Horror Show by Richard O’Brien, he takes a step to the right (okay, not really) and invites us all on a “Time Warp” into our best Baby Boomer-meets-Generation X late-night-B-movie flashback. With remaining shows running Thursday through Saturday, this fabulous play marks a magical and musical triumph in Creter’s long creative legacy at Tennessee Tech.
Supported by the genius work of Creter’s long-time collaborators set-designer Colin Forsyth and choreographer-partner-in-crime Jennifer Dotson-Creter, the Backdoor Playhouse brings in some wildly talented newcomers to comprise the cast for this carnivalesque and comic singalong fantasy. Fans who thought the Rocky Horror Picture Show smashed our assumptions about where the audience ends and the performance begins will be happily haunted by its historical predecessor, a live play (no movie here) where attendees come dressed as characters, dance in the aisles, shout back to the stage, and sing the lyrics to their favorite songs.
While Backdoor Playhouse patrons will recognize recent staple Josh Rapp standout and try to steal the show as Riff Raff, many in the daring and dynamic young cast have taken the stage in the revered space at the rear of the Jere Whitson Building for the first time. Mary Richardson’s magnetic Janet hypnotizes everyone not just with that character’s confused working-out of her seductive innocence but with her Broadway-caliber vocal delivery. Buster Shadwick’s sheer and shocking immersion inside the role of the play’s master of disaster Frank should provide all the requisite thrills and chills we expect from this classic.
Locals unfamiliar with Creter’s directorial reputation or the play’s risque and R-rated topics ought to Google-a-little about the show before bringing the grandparents or the kids or spending $12 on something that’s so completely beyond the norm. That said, seeing this show’s film version was a rite-of-passage for me in the 1980s as a teen, and the crowds so far at this 2013 run span the generations. Mark and Jennifer inject this play with such an authentic love for everything that good theater can be; so much so, the mindblowing, genderbending, and heartwarming romp may be their singular greatest achievement in already amazing parallel careers in theater and dance.
While Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, or Tommy may have more notoriety from the first great wave of rock operas, Rocky Horror’s reputation is based on our participation and an unlikely antagonist who comes adorned in heels and garters and soaked in mascara to melt all boundaries and make everyone a part of the show. This joyful, sparkling, and colorful crash-course in the weird willingly tickles its sold-out crowds every night largely because of all the talent and sincerity that brought it to the Cookeville stage, embodied by an extraordinary commitment to the play’s extremely democratic ethos: “Don’t dream it, be it.”
All tickets for the remaining productions are only available at the door. General admission for $12. Tech Students free with Eagle Card. Get there an hour early if you expect to get a seat. For details: http://www.tntech.edu/bdph
Caroline Brown rocks.
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