By John Swartz
The Mariposa Arts Theatre company has done it again. Their production of The Rocky Horror Show (running to November 20) isn’t just a musical, it’s going to go down as an event.
Unless you’ve been living north of the tree line, you’ll know the movie based on the play has cult status with audiences dressing up as characters from the play, responding to lines in the script and singing along. All that happened on opening night Thursday. There were more than 400 people in attendance.
Producer Phyllis Johnson said all the performances on the schedule have at least 300 seats sold, many more than 400 and a couple have 500 seats sold, so by the time you hear from your friends about how good this production is and how much fun it is just to be in the audience, or maybe from this review, you’ll need to get tickets right away.
Mariposa doesn’t normally do their productions in Gord’s Room, preferring to have a full house in the 100-seat Studio Theatre, rather than have that many or a few more spread out among the 700 seats upstairs. That said, when they have done anything upstairs, they don’t sell balcony seats. They opened up those 10 days ago because of the demand.
So sales were happening because of the reputation of the play, the music, and the cult status, but I suspect tickets are going to fly out the door once word travels about the scale and performance of the production spreads.
I don’t think I’ve had so much enjoyment watching a play. MAT’s Chicago was a completely well produced and executed production, so was Spamalot – and it was a lot of fun. There have been others, Urinetown (comes to mind) which have been very well executed. But this is just miles beyond.
I found the script funnier and faster paced in the first half (it also had all the tunes that have become popular in it) than the second, but what is lacking in those details for the second half was more than made up by Claude Labrecque’s fantastic lighting design and show. It really was the star of the second half.
The whole play rests on costuming. Without it you’re left with good tunes, sung well (one hopes) and some funny lines that just wouldn’t work otherwise. Erin Hawke put together some flashy stuff, some of which generated a lot of laughter.
There are some clever sight gags, brilliant even. I’m not going to give them away, but the idea of working with what you’ve got (you have to remember there was a movie in which tons of props and logistics can be used you can’t do on stage) to the point diehard fans gave up tremendous applause when they happen and had to make director Kaleb Sauve punch the air a few times.
Oh, on the applause. The first half was interrupted a couple of times with wild applause and cheering (once in the middle of the signature tune Time Warp) and following the other popular songs. In the early going on entry of main characters as well. And it wasn’t just applause, several times the audience joined in on choruses, which just added to the grandeur of the production.
It’s difficult to talk about the acting on a case by case basis, because it would take another 1,000 words. Stephanie Lamb, Laura Bainborough, Michael Abernethy, Josh Halbot, Pam Sparrow, Alyse Sutton, Sam Wiles, Stephen Dobby and Patrick Voo all overplayed their roles beyond expectation – being the characters, getting the jokes delivered, and singing. One however, Ryan LaPlante, is not a name I recall from other MAT productions. He was Frank N’ Furter (the Tim Curry role from the original London production and the movie). His bombastic ‘lord of the manor’ in fishnets, non sequiturs and singing was certainly worthy of being the central character of this very busy musical.
Last, when the fly backdrops and secondary curtains are out of the way and the lights come up on the set, you’re going to gasp. Everyone did. Brian and Jeff Halbot and Kaleb did a fantastic job of creating something like has not been seen in the Opera House for at least the last 27 years. It doesn’t just look good, it’s very functional too.
If you haven’t been to a play in a while, never felt like you needed to see a play, or don’t like going to plays, put all that aside. This is a show not to be missed. You’re going to have the best time. Of particular interest, the Friday November 18, 10 p.m. show will be wild considering the cult followers will likely be half the entertainment.
(Photos by Deb Halbot – Mariposa Arts Theatre) Main: MAT’s The Rocky Horror Show At The Opera House