It’s spectacular sci-fi spoofery with audience partici…..pation at “The Rocky Horror Show”

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Jason Forbach as Brad wearing a striped blue suit and Kristen Martin as Janet wearing a pink dress and holding flowers. 2023
(L-R) Jason Forbach and Kristen Martin in “Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show” at Bucks County Playhouse through October 28. Photo by Mark Garvin.
The cast is surrounding Frankie in the middle. 2023
(L-R Frankie Grande and cast in “Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show” at Bucks County Playhouse through October 28. Photo by Mark Garvin.

The Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, PA has revived a Halloween tradition. It’s The Rocky Horror Show in a flamboyant new production, and it’s a rousing good time for all! Playwright/composer Richard O’Brien’s affectionate musical parody of those old black-and-white science fiction and horror movies has been an audience favorite since it first appeared in 1973. Under the direction of Bucks County favorite Hunter Foster, with the choreography of Shannon Lewis, it does not fail to deliver on the laughs or the songs.

The story, presented by a somewhat pompous narrator (Benjamin Howes), involves two teenagers, Brad (Jason Forbach) and Janet (Kristen Martin). Lost during a storm, they seek help at a creepy house wherein Frank ‘N’ Furter (Frankie Grande) and his servants Magenta (Alyssa Wray), Riff Raff (Tim Shea), and Columbia (Larkin Reilly) are putting the finishing touches on Furter’s latest experiment: Rocky (Mike Bindeman), a muscled specimen designed for Furter’s, ahem, physical enjoyment. Arriving to halt Furter’s underlying plans is Dr. Scott (Howes in a dual role), a former teacher of Brad and Janet’s. Plenty of not-so-subtle sexual innuendos, simulated sexual scenes, and romantic entanglements occur before the show reaches its spangled, campy, bathetic musical conclusion.

The fun starts at the very top of the show, when Wray’s Magenta belts out the opening number, “Science Fiction Double Feature”, with the ensemble. There is the familiar-to-many dance number, “Time Warp”; Furter’s introductory “Sweet Transvestite”; Janet’s frenetic song of burgeoning sexuality, “Touch-a-Touch-a Touch Me”; and “Rose Tint My World/I’m Going Home”, with the anthemic lyric motto “Don’t dream it, be it.” Throughout the entire score, fine work is done by the three-piece ensemble of Jason Wolbach on guitar, Mike DiFebbo on bass, and Jon Ball on drums, under the direction of Luke Molloy.

The set, designed by Jeff Perri with lighting by Travis McHale, starts out as a blank space with images of mostly 1950’s era movie posters, but quickly morphs into the lair of Frank ‘N’ Furter and company, a multi-purpose interior space with doors and stairways, which becomes hallways, bedrooms, a ballroom, and Furter’s laboratory. Nicole V. Moody’s costumes are suitably 50’s bland for Brad and Janet but glittery, gauzy, bedazzled creations for Furter, Magenta, and Riff Raff; even the Narrator’s black tux has glitter outlining its lapels.

The cast throws themselves into their performances, performing with a barely-repressed mania reminiscent of 50’s science fiction menace and with a speedy verve that makes any leaps of illogic seem irrelevant. Special credits go to Benjamin Howes’ too-serious-by-half portrayal of the Narrator/Dr. Scott, the voices of reason and authority; and to Frankie Grande’s Frank ‘N’ Furter, who maintains his over-the-top performance from his first entrance to his hammy last exit. You might not want to be left alone with Frank ‘N’ Furter, but he’s never less than entertaining with a veneer of sexual anarchy about him.

The Rocky Horror Show has, for some 50 years, been an affectionate, frenetic homage to those movies that made you shudder and scream when you were kids. The Bucks County Playhouse is to be commended for reviving their traditional Halloween show, and I hope it continues for many years to come. You owe it to yourself to make a jump to the left and a step to the right, and do the Time Warp down to New Hope to see The Rocky Horror Show!

The Rocky Horror Show is presented by the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, PA through October 28th. For more information, or to purchase tickets, go to bcptheater.org or call 215-862-2121. The Rocky Horror Show is recommended for those 17 and up. The Playhouse will provide props for audience participation; outside props will not be allowed in the theatre. All tickets allow audience members to join in doing the Time Warp on stage with the cast.

Allen Neuner
Allen Neuner is the theater reviewer at Out in Jersey magazine. Jersey born and raised, Allen went to his first Broadway play in 1957 and has been deliriously in love with live theater ever since. Allen has been accepted into the American Theatre Critics Association, a professional organization of theatre journalists. He has been partnered to music reviewer Bill Realman Stella, with whom he is also deliriously in love, for over 20 years. They live in an over-cluttered house in Somerville.