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For the first time since 2019, Bucks County Playhouse is bringing back its annual Halloween production of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show. To capitalize on the excitement of this long-awaited return, director Hunter Foster has crafted a brand-new production featuring choreography by Shannon Lewis and a new design team. The result is what you would expect from Rocky Horror: fun, in-your-face, and loud.
For the uninitiated, Rocky Horror is an homage to science fiction and the films of the 1950s and 1960s. The cult favorite features a paper-thin plot with unforgettable characters and a catchy rock 'n roll score. The narrative follows a square couple, Brad and Janet (here, Jason Forbach and Kristen Martin), who find themselves in the queer and otherworldly mansion of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Frankie Grande).
Grande smartly breaks from the mold of Tim Curry’s iconic Frank-N-Furter in the show's 1973 premiere in London and the 1975 film The Rocky Horror Picture Show. While he headlines the press release because of his celebrity, the reality star (a Muhlenberg College grad) commands the stage with strong vocals, competent dancing, and a bratty charm all his own.
Tim Shea and Alyssa Wray, as the sibling pair Riff Raff and Magenta, vocally stand out from the pack. Their opening number sets a perfect mood for the campy production. As a lab-grown himbo, Mike Bindeman infuses Rocky with naïve charm and a burgeoning erotic awareness.
To help recreate the magic of a midnight showing of the classic film, audience members get a bag of authorized props with instructions for how and when to use them (no outside props permitted). These moments of interaction are lovely and create a momentarily immersive experience. Following curtain call, the audience gets to come up on stage and dance the Time Warp with the cast.
As is customary when watching the film, audiences should be ready for the action and dialogue to be halted with callouts from the audience. At the Saturday, October 14, performance, I giggled the first few times and then grew increasingly annoyed at the interruption to the live performance. The giddy audience did not seem to share my agitation. An unfortunate side effect of these intrusions is the need to bring sound levels up to a blaring volume.
The new design choices, described as “glam and gothic,” lack the polish I would expect. Costumes by Nicole V. Moody seem to be sourced from Party City, featuring inexplicable neon bobs and dayglo spandex. The set by Jeff Perri is effective but not particularly noteworthy.
At a tight 90 minutes, the show is a fun night out for Halloween. Don’t think too hard, throw some rice, scream some obscenities, and “give yourself over to absolute pleasure” at The Rocky Horror Show.
What, When, Where
The Rocky Horror Show. By Richard O’Brien, directed by Hunter Foster. Through October 28, 2023, at Bucks County Playhouse, 70 S Main Street, New Hope. Tickets start at $75 with “dynamic pricing” on high-demand nights. (215) 862-2121 or buckscountyplayhouse.org.
Bucks County Playhouse is a wheelchair-accessible venue. Assistive listening devices are available. The Rocky Horror Show is recommended for ages 17 and up.
Masks for guests are highly encouraged but not required.
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