Ft. Salem’s The Rocky Horror Show: Go for the Show, End up Being Part of the Performance

There’s a party going on now through Halloween at Fort Salem Theater, and you’re going to want to be a part of it. Perfectly chosen for the season—the funny, kitschy, tongue-in-cheek and occasionally salacious homage to Sci-Fi and B-grade horror movies of the 50’s and 60’s—this is the place to be. If you’re up for a fun, somewhat interactive evening where the show in the audience can be as entertaining as the one on the stage, then Rocky Horror is the ideal way to spend a few hours. 

Photo by Michael Hatzel

All-American newly engaged couple Brad and Janet find themselves with a flat tire one evening in the midst of a rainstorm. The only refuge appears to be a somewhat dark, broken-down castle a few miles down the road. A ring of the doorbell and the two enter a world they could never have thought about in their wildest, 1950s puritanical virginal minds and hilarity ensues. The two enter the domicile of the mad transvestite scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter as he is about to unveil his latest creation, Rocky, a Frankenstein-type creation perfectly muscled, complete with a tan and gold lame speedo. The show is as much about sex and gender fluidity (and did I mention sex?) as it is about anything else. 

The show and particularly the movie have become cult classics.  The audience has learned many pat responses that they call out to the movie screen or, in this case, the actors performing on the stage. The responses from the audience are mostly snarky, sarcastic asides, and, again, many sexual innuendos. The audience has a propensity to arrive in costumes of their favorite characters, making this a perfect Halloween event. 

Photo by Michael Hatzel

Ft. Salem’s audience opening night did not disappoint on any level. They embraced both their lines and costumes with great gusto and commitment.

As much as this could be a review of the audience participants and a critique of their part in the production, that will change from show to show, so the need to concentrate on what was on the stage appears paramount. No matter what performance you opt-in for, you will not be disappointed. 

Beginning with Charles J.J. Krewczyk, whose wonderful set design once again anchors the Ft. Salem production, the company is so incredibly fortunate to have found, nurtured, and held on to this amazing talent. Choreographers Kyle West (who happens to be the Theater’s Executive and Artistic Director, as well as making his on-stage Ft. Salem debut since the purchase of the theater) and Kelly Sienkiewicz were outstanding. Sienkiewicz does triple duty on the tech side of the show, hitting a home run as Costume and Hair and Makeup designer as well. Sam Victoria’s lighting design rounds out an expertly executed technical side of the show. 

Photo by Michael Hatzel

On stage, the company has put together one of the most equally talented casts seen here. Kelly Sienkiewicz sets the tone with the strong opening number, Science Fiction. Ryan Canavan and Jenna Wilkinson follow suit with the very funny Damn-it Janet performed in a wonderfully creative automobile on the stage, complete with working headlights. Canavan and Wilkinson offer strong vocals throughout and present wonderful juxtapositions with the rest of the cast.  By the third number, if you’ve not figured it out yet, you’re in for an amazing evening. James Alexander will blow you away with his amazing solo portion of Over at the Frankenstein Place. The cast just continues to enthrall. They are triple threats. All sing, dance, and act (read here as mug and play equally to one another and the audience) with equal aplomb.

If there is one issue, it is one that Ft. Salem consistently struggles with… the sound mix. The band, admirably led by Music Director Iris Rogers, is excellent. Regrettably, they continually drown out the performers to the point that if I were not familiar with much of the music, I would not have been able to understand most of the lyrics. When you have a cast as strong as this one, it is a shame. That was a complaint registered by not only my theater companion at intermission but also overheard by many in the theater’s lobby.

Photo by Michael Hatzel

Overall, The Rocky Horror Show is an evening of great fun and laughs; and if you are so inclined, you can join in the dancing of the iconic Time Warp, place a newspaper over your head, and help Brad and Janet light the way for them, orthrowg playing cards into the theater. If you are not so inclined, simply enjoy the two performances: the one on the stage and the one going on around you. Rocky Horror is a perfect production for the season. Go join the fun!

The Rocky Horror Show runs at the Fort Salem Theater, 11 East Broadway Salem, through a special midnight performance on Halloween. For more information or tickets, www.fortsalem.com or the box office: 518-854-9200.

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