Sunday, October 12, 2014

Rocky Horror Returns: Is there more to say here? YES!!!!

One year ago I wrote my thoughts regarding the Rocky Horror Show at Paper Wing Theatre- and so here I am a year later and with another performance I was afraid I'd have nothing to write about. My last experience was amazing, fantastic, glorious, and very entertaining. And so there couldn't be anything more to add to that, right?

Leave it to Koly McBride to kick me in the face with a reminder that no two shows are really the same and that there's always something to think about after an experience. Because not only am I blown away by my experience this year, but there's plenty of things to write about, talk about, and just generally GUSH all over regarding this show. (That pun regarding "gush" is a blatant and perverted reference to ejaculation, for those of you who missed it. Did you miss it? It missed you.)

I mention McBride for two reasons- first, she's the director. Her vision guides the project each year that Paper Wing tackles the show and each year she comes up with new ways to make it new, fresh, and interesting. She knows she has to hit all the familiar notes, she knows she has a huge landmark show to produce that will bring in hardcore fans and new faces alike, and she knows she can't afford to just bring out the same set, the same routines, the same look each and every year. She has to make it interesting- and she does. Last year saw the music coming from a "big band" perspective with horns and rhythm and a distinctly "upper class Jazzy" kind of motif- this year she takes us on a ride through Glam-Rock Punk 70's-80's motif with a that same edge through the music. (I've been told musician Christopher Lopez should get a shout out here, so here it is.)

Second: She fucking nails it as Trixie- though this is a role she shares with actress Kate Hill. I rarely get a chance to see Koly shine as a vocalist, but she has an awesome voice and is always a great performer.

Let me start with LJ Brewer as Frankenfurter- it's always the first place to start and with everything I wrote last year still being in full effect, Brewer's performance takes on a slightly new look along with the whole rest of the show. Yes, he's the rock star. Yes, he's carrying so much of the show across his capable shoulders. Yes, he's glorious. Yes, he gave me and my wife a little shout-out during his opening number with a "Happy Anniversary" (It was our 11th, did I mention? Eleven years of marriage.. wow! Back to the show... ) and the show rocked on with his amazing vocals. Is it any wonder that this is the Paper Wing Theatre's signature show with LJ Brewer in this role?

Jay DeVine also returns in the role of the narrator. Now, many of you faceless readers who are familiar with my earlier thoughts regarding previous performances know damn well that I think Jay is one of the best and most endearing actors on the Central Coast. Firstly, the guy is a work horse- from comedy to horror to serious drama, he can do it all. He plays bigger than life characters and I've never seen any two be the same person. His performance as the Narrator is something very special- not only does he play it well, but he handles audience participation like a pro and often rolls with the punches and comes back up with a few one-two knockouts of his own to throw back at the audience.

 But I wrote about all of this last year- and I said there was more to write about this year, didn't I?

Reprising their roles from last year are Nick Kelly as Brad (asshole), Heather Hahn as Janet (slut!), the very beautiful and capable of cutting, smashing, and slashing with a glance Jourdain Barton as Magenta (She's your sister!) and Taylor Landess as Riff Raff- all of whom are amazing. They always are. But let me take a moment to talk about Landess, who last night took his role to a who'nudda'level last night! GOOD GOD!!! I thought he was going to kill himself during the "Timewarp" with an energy level that just has to be seen to be believed. He was leaping, sliding, jumping, running, and belting out those notes with an absolute FEVER and he didn't need any goddamn cowbell to cure it. Good Fucknuggets, this kid just poured something acidic into his performance and MELTED the goddamn stage down. So what do you do when all of this is going on? What do you pour on top of it?

You bring in a few new cast members to fill out the ranks.

 I've now seen three different ladies play Columbia- each one brings a special something to the role and this occasion is no different. Mindy Whitfield's comedic timing is excellent. I genuinely felt badly for her when she bore the brunt of Frankenfurter's abuse, also. Her tap-dancing routine is definitely something to watch- and watch out when she has her big hissy fit. Hilarious!

And then there was Rocky- I'm speechless. Not a knock any previous Rocky's I've seen before this show but Dan Kutter breaks the goddamn mold up there! Kutter's performance is going to be one to remember for a long time to come- It certainly helps that the guy is cut and defined, has amazing looks, and also looks like he's having a blast up there on the stage. He also knows how to work an audience- he connects with people in the crowd, he offers winks, a flirtatious smile, a flex here and there, and then tops it all of by remaining in the "moment" on stage and continuing to interact with his cast mates. Kudos to Kutter for this performance.

Now, there are two specific roles I haven't mentioned yet: This is because I need to write about the show I see, not the show I don't see an that requires clarification. The roles of Eddy and Dr. Scott are played by multiple people at various points- Ron Moore tackles both roles on some performances while the roles are divided between Michael Alliman as Scott and Andrew Nava as Eddie. So with that said, the performance I saw featured Nava and Alliman in the performance-both are amazing.

Nava's strong vocals have a chance to shine in "Hot Patootie"- the young actor is reprising his performance from last year and he has a whole new comfort level that shows. He's fantastic!  I've enjoyed watching him grow as a performer over the past year and look forward to future stage appearances.

Alliman is hilarious! He tackles Dr. Scott with fervor and chews up the German accent with a love for the show and the theater. He's another one who shows how much fun he's having on the stage with a couple of playful antics with Brewer and some others.

And now I'm going to bring this all around again to talk about the last three performers returning to their roles- all three of whom I've written about plenty in the past but the truth is that something is missing from these thoughts if I don't expound a little on their performances. Nick Kelly is pitch perfect as Brad- he has that cheesy "ham" performance down with a few challenging "poses" to Frank followed by the crumbling realization of his characters nebbishness. Hahn- seriously? The woman come back year after year and fucking kills it over and over again. But let me add something that maybe I haven't mentioned before but bears mentioning... her vocals during "Heroes" have always always always sent chills down my spine from the first time I heard her sing it to last night. So many other songs on the show are considered highlights, but that one moment (at least for me) is a huge moment that shows just how powerful, emotional, and heart-wrenching a performer that Hahn is. She's gifted in so many ways and I love watching that moment.

And Jourdain Barton? Magenta haunts the whole of the production with her withering glares, a few rolling eyes, and a slightly sadistic chuckle regarding the plight of our "would-be heroes" and her employer. I mentioned Landess earlier performance during the "Time Warp", all of which is possible because Barton matches his vocal strength perfectly an shows terrific restraint in sadistically watching her brother go fucking bonkers-

In other words: All three fucking deliver year after year.

5 out of 5.

Photos Courtesy: Robbie Ann Cunningham 

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