The Highlights (and Horrors) of Rocky Horror

The Highlights (and Horrors) of Rocky Horror

My blog today was supposed to be an exploration of Broadway sequels, but I am going to have to postpone that to another day. No, time and space demand that I write a reaction to Fox Networks remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Oh, how I wanted to love it (or at least like it) but this production sits on one like a bowl of slightly spoiled rice pudding sits in your stomach. It's not something I needed to begin with, and now I'm slightly nauseous for the experience.

To begin with, one has to wonder how this project/idea landed at the Fox network? Rocky Horror Picture Show is a libidinous romp of sex and debauchery and, let's face it, Fox is not exactly known these days for its liberal stances on anything. This musical was never going to be allowed the room to breathe (or throb) the way that it deserves to. We should have been prepared for the sanitized, PG-13 monstrosity that stunk-up the small screen Thursday night. This Rocky Horror was about as sexy as the underwear section of a 1950s Sears catalogue.

The real shame in this is that there was a highly talented cast assembled for this production, but tethered as they were to this milquetoast concept, they resonate as unsexy, uncomfortable, and understated. Ryan McCartan was particularly game to break out of this constricting shell as he humorously played Brad as uncomfortably conservative, just itching to put on fishnet stockings.. He looked as though he were on the verge of bursting into flame trying to restrain himself. Victoria Justice's Janet appeared perpetually perplexed, and that never changed or evolved. Reeve Carney as Riff Raff actually gave a creepily detached performance that was the evening's kinkiest interpretation (He also sang well). Adam Lambert did little to impress as the motorcycle riding, slightly demonic Eddie. In fact, his big entrance and subsequent number felt more like a rabid fit. Than any kind of character choice.
 Ivy Levan was sublime during the opening sequence where she wandered around in an usherette costume, inviting people into the late night picture show. Of course, the real focus was Laverne Cox stepping into Tim Curry's shoes as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, an effort that was heartbreakingly failed, not because Cox is a bad actress, but perhaps because she's too good at being feminine. Curry radiated an androgyny in the original that made everything feel just a bit naughtier and gender fluid. Cox is sassy, sexy and fierce, but dare I say she's a tad too classy and feminine for the role? I admire this actress so much and I give her many props for trying to excise the ghost of Curry’s magnificent camp.

 Ivy Levan, Tim Curry, Adam Lambert, Annaleigh Ashford, Staz Nair, Laverne Cox, Ryan McCartan, Victoria Justice, Christina Milian, Reeve Carney and Ben Vereen.

Ivy Levan, Tim Curry, Adam Lambert, Annaleigh Ashford, Staz Nair, Laverne Cox, Ryan McCartan, Victoria Justice, Christina Milian, Reeve Carney and Ben Vereen.

Of course, much of the responsibility has to land squarely on the shoulders of director Kenny Ortega. When he is in his element, such as the blithely-charged High School Musical series or the zany kookiness of Hocus Pocus, his energy and his guidance can shape a piece into something entertaining and memorable. The Rocky Horror Picture Show remake, however, shouldn’t have been that kind of production, and yet, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Zac Efron, and company dance into the castle and start setting setting up for the next sock-hop or science fair. If Ortega was restrained by the orders of the Fox network, he should have known better than to agree to this project. If he was not under any special orders to keep this version of a PG rated caliber, then his idea of the licentious and lewd must be the secret recipe for Cream of Wheat.

The myriad horrors that accompany this inception of The Rocky Horror Picture Show are plentiful. The property is not the strongest to begin with, with an aimless story and broadly drawn characters. It's camp factor and iconic music are it's two greatest assets, neither of which are executed to great effect well here. Without sly and sinful fun, The Rocky Horror Picture Show just becomes an exhausting marathon of loud, frantic nothingness. A few charms aside, that's what Fox gave us Thursday night.

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