His lips quirk, equal parts disdain and hunger. Eyes burn with a challenging fury, “Here there be monsters!” they warn. Douglas Duffy Johnson slithers like a serpent in the garden of Eden, opens his maw, and swallows The Rocky Horror Show with a punk rock energy that demands to be seen. He leads the new cast for Paper Wing Theatre’s Halloween show with an infectious energy that breathes new life into the fall tradition and the rest of the cast rises to join him.
Richard O’Brien’s irreverent rock opera has become a steady tradition in the Monterey Bay, and Paper Wing Theatre has long played home to the raucous entertainment. I’ve seen the show more times than I can literally count, both in the audience and as a performer on the stage. I’ve written about the show a few times, each time after the first believing that I wouldn’t have anything left to write. But this year promised a new beginning as the role of Frank N Furter would be newly cast and the double billing of separate casts promised a refreshing take on the material. But it was going to take a nuclear level performance to inspire me to write anything beyond “great show” on my facebook.
Johnson is joined on the stage by the playfully adoring Leia Dilley as Columbia, the scheming rat-like Justin Azevedo as Riff Raff, and the dangerously psychotic Kelly Machado as Magenta. All bring their amazing vocals to the numbers and follow Johnson in the new direction and play to his dangerous allure. Whether worn by his shenanigans or adoring in their idolatry, they never forget that Frank is the center of their world. The creation of Rocky (Xun Zhang) isn’t just the culmination of the Doctor’s efforts, he is the catalyst that sends their world spiraling out of control.
And his world begins to melt with the arrival of the boyishly innocent Brad and naïve Janet, both skillfully brought to life by newcomers Jay Jones and Anjoli Johnson. From their vocals to their portrayals, they become innocent victims to the doctors mad schemes. The incredible finale of “Superheroes” bleeds on stage.
When a nuclear reactor approaches critical mass, you feel it in the air…. Radiating heat, energy, and something is going to give. The first act builds with several introductions leading to the arrival of Frank, the audience explodes. Then the monster is born and we feel the burning aftermath of that explosion bake us into our seats. And then the world crumbles and the Doctor’s sins return in the form of Randy Spires’ rendition of Eddie, the Rockstar rebel whose parts were harnessed to create the monster. And there’s an angry chill that washes over the audience as Spires vocals deliver a vengeful nuclear winter that rains on the good doctor’s parade.
The new world, a desolate wasteland aftermath of the Doctor’s dreams come true settles in as our heroes fall to temptations and danger. But there’s one more surprise in store for the Doctor, one more sin to haunt him, one more message from beyond the grave as Frank’s nemesis, Dr. Everett Scott, arrives in the form of Steven Howard. And he delivers his message with passionate vocals that bring the original Meatloaf’s performance of Dr. Scott to life and rekindles the burning fires of that nuclear energy with a beautiful rendition of “Eddies Teddy”.
And so the new cast of The Rocky Horror Shows melts with radiation levels and the nuclear blast wipes detritus from the face of mother earth. The battle hardened mean machine devours all in its wake.
10 out of 10.