Rocky Horror Pleases Pioneer Theatre

The scene at Pioneer Theatre is normally one of class and refined elegance in both clientele and in the performances on stage but even the most conservative of establishments has a dark side and last Saturday night Pioneer Theatre let its hair down and rocked till nearly midnight. “The Rocky Horror Show” finished up a brief but powerfully entertaining run at PTC with a late night showing of “Rocky Horror” that end its three performance run on a high note. The show was competing with another high profile event across the street at Rice Eccles Stadium where the U of U was battling it out on the gridiron against the University of Southern California but much to the delight of the fans in attendance the cast of “Rocky Horror” put on a high octane performance that more than matched the ruckus across the street.

It’s not often that the crowd mingling in the lobby of PTC is as entertaining as the show itself but thanks to “Rocky Horror’s” cult classic following the audience was as much part of the show as the cast itself. The lobby before the show was a veritable carnival of life with hard core fans dressing up as their favorite “Rocky Horror” characters and strutting around with more makeup and leather than a KISS concert. It was as though the tailgating from across the street just packed up and moved its festive atmosphere into the lobby of PTC. For “Rocky Horror” virgins, such as myself, the prop kits being sold before the show presented just enough intrigue to foreshadow what was to come. It’s not often a patron of the theatre can purchase fake hotdogs, toilet paper, random playing cards, and latex gloves along with their popcorn.

The mood in the theatre before the show was much like a rock concert and when the house band made its way out onto the stage the crowd cheered like it was the Rolling Stones which was just the beginning of the rollicking good times that ensued. As the cast members begin to fill the stage the sounds of anticipation from the audience begin a slow rumble to an all out frenzy of cheers as the music started the journey into the sexually progressive and warped world of “Rocky Horror” with the smooth lilting voice of Magenta (played by Ginger Bess) crooning the words to “Science Fiction Double Feature” leading to an introduction of the sexually repressed and newly engaged couple Brad and Janet (played by Eric Santagata and Ashley Gardner Carlson).

Many in the audience showed just how knowledgeable they were about the show by quickly integrating themselves into the performance by yelling their own nicknames for Brad and Janet that while can’t be printed will surely remain in the minds of all those in attendance for a lifetime. “Rocky Horror” wastes no time engaging the audience with popular tunes like “Damn It, Janet” and the incredibly catchy “Time Warp” with both songs serving to build a slow burn towards the dramatic smoked filled entrance of Frank N Furter (played by Tony Vincent) who immediately begins to seduce both Brad and Janet, along with the audience, by singing the very engaging and forthcoming song “Sweet Transvestite” in which Furter unabashedly introduces himself as a “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania”. Vincent plays the role of Furter with bombastic flair and a powerful rock and roll voice to match. He brings a different take to Furter by giving the character a zany yet self aware personality that has shades of Johnny Depp’s popular take on Captain Jack Sparrow from “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

“The Narrator” (played by Utah senator Jim Dabakis) guides the audience through the story line showing off able acting skills and injects just enough local politics to keep things interesting. When not narrating from his comfortable reading chair Dabakis can be seen catching severed hands and even showing off a few dance moves as well. The muscular monster “Rocky” (played by Garen McRoberts), that is created by Furter to assist him in his sexual romps, serves as a surprisingly comedic sideshow with bulging biceps that go along with a more than serviceable singing voice. Both Santagata and Gardner Carlson bring both charm and humor to the roles of Brad and Janet and delight the audience with their rather quick turn from sexually repressed to sexually aroused and finally culminating to sexually progressive as they trade their modest attire for revealing leather outfits.

But the real star of “Rocky Horror” is clearly the actively engaged crowd of hardcore fan’s that do more than dress the part they bring a festive atmosphere to the theatre that melts away the invisible barrier between the cast and the audience. Some of the funniest lines of the night belong not to the cast but to clever and quick-witted audience members who when Furter poses the question “Is it a crime to give into pleasure?” quickly yelled out in unison “It is in Utah!”

It’s hard not to feel like part of the show when with certain cues from the cast comes raining down a deluge of popcorn, toilet paper, and latex gloves just to name a few of the props that the audience was encouraged to throw. By the time “Rocky Horror” wrapped up its thoroughly entertaining performance by having the audience sing and dance along to “Time Warp” the clock had struck midnight and the fervor pitch had finally reached its climax leaving hard core fans satisfied and “Rocky Horror” virgins with more than just a few sexually pleasing ideas and some latex gloves to along with it.