Arts : Let’s do the time warp burlesque!

No one ever said this thing was good. And by “this thing” I mean Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show, which most of you know from its also-ungood movie incarnation as The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

From left: Robby Ramirez as Brad, Wendy Russell as Janet, Kaeree Wiles as Rocky, Anthony Cortino as Frank, and Dianah McGreehan as Magenta, in a production of the Rocky Horror Show at the Cameo Theater.

In fact, a point could be made that it is Rocky’s particular brand of badness that made it the cult phenomenon it is. A sort of swiss-cheesy looseness of artistic integrity that makes room for, well, you.

That is if you’re one of the fans who are, frankly, the most interesting thing about the Rocky Horror experience. There’s a significant sociological essay to be written about the burning desire so many people feel to be a part of a campy sci-fi musical about transvestites from outer space.

Perhaps the cleverest thing about the new production at CameoCenter is how thoroughly it understands, and caters to, that desire. If you’re one of those people who’ve been waiting for your chance to “be it” rather than “dream it,” this is the Rocky for you.

The Rocky Horror Show
10pm Fri, through Jun 17
10pm Sat, Jun 3-17
Call for ticket price
Cameo Theatre
1123 E. Commerce St.

Standing with the crowd on the sidewalk on opening night, I flashed back to the last time I’d seen lines this long at the old Cameo, at a fetish show many, many years ago. Once inside, I realized the significance of that insight. This isn’t like walking into a theater. Instead, you enter a club full of people in thigh-highs and vinyl, shrilly encouraged to “dance motherfuckers!” by the three black-lit ladies of the Transy Gospel Choir, suspended above the dance floor in a startlingly satisfying visual tableau. The music is pounding. The bar is open. You can, apparently, light up your cigarette anywhere.

The “party” segues into the audience-participation Virgin Sacrifice and then into the opening bars of the show itself almost seamlessly. The performance area is a raised cube on the floor, surrounded by seats that are, for the most part, at crotch-level with the folks onstage. And if that isn’t intimate enough for you, a lot of the action takes place on the floor as well. A front-row seat is a splash-zone experience.

Director Dave Cortez has staged a sleek, high-energy, stripped-down Rocky with amped-up musical arrangements and sharp, sexy choreography by Desiree Johnson-Cortez, his wife. Traditionalists can rest assured, you’ll recognize the music and your old costumes will fit right in. What’s new about this production is, largely, the presentation — it’s Rock Concert meets Live Sex Show, and all right in your face! Although opening night was a bit of a tech trainwreck, once they get the sound fixed (and, hey, you know all the words anyway, right?) this show is highly recommended for those with strong stomachs, high smoke tolerance, and strange, dark desires.

- Laurie Dietrich

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