Millennial Theatre Project brings “Rocky Horror” back with a glam rock edge

By Abbey Marshall, TDS Staff Reporter

Millennial Theatre Project is ready to welcome audiences back to the bizarre and fantastical world of The Rocky Horror Show Live!, a musical sure to have viewers shivering with antici… pation.

After a year off during the pandemic, the production company is bringing the stage production back for a third time with an eclectic cast of characters and antics guaranteed to provoke and delight. This time, however, the artistic team plans to offer a new spin on the cult classic with a glam rock edge.

The story follows Brad and Janet, a clean-cut, sexually repressed couple, who get stuck with a flat tire in a storm and happen upon a spooky mansion. Inside lives scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter, “sweet transvestite” from another planet, who is working on his latest creation — a muscular, blond man named Rocky, and a slew of other quirky characters from outer space that prompt Brad and Janet to lose their innocence and discover a wild side of their sexualities.

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Told through energetic choreography and rock songs, the wacky movie has evolved into a cult classic years after its release — and box office flop — in 1975. Over several decades, audiences have flocked to theaters, particularly around Halloween, for screenings in which a “shadow cast” dresses up and performs in front of the movie screen as it plays out behind them. Barry Bostwick, who played Brad in the film, will host such a screening on Oct. 22 for the 45th anniversary of the movie’s release at the University of Akron’s E. J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall.

Rocky Horror was first a stage musical that debuted in 1973, which is how MTP is presenting the show when it opens on Friday, Oct. 15.

“We’re not doing a traditional Rocky Horror,” said Francine Parr.

Parr, who starred as Veronica Sawyer in MTP’s August production of Heathers that closed just a week before Rocky rehearsals began, is at the helm as director and artistic director. This is her 19th directorial endeavor with the program.

Because of Rocky’s cult-classic status, audiences usually know what to expect. Parr said many theater companies just mimic the movie, from costume design to makeup to line delivery. After presenting the musical for a third time, MTP’s creative team is ready to switch it up.

“It’s going to be glam rock, paying homage to David Bowie, Kiss, Elton John, with wild, heavy hair and funky glam rock makeup,” Parr said. “I’ve always been a huge David Bowie fan. I love the androgynous makeup and think it’ll be a good fit for the show.”

MTP hired a local makeup artist, Raeann Flask, to design the show’s hair and makeup and bring Parr’s vision to life.

In addition to the aesthetic design, Parr instructed the cast to go home and listen to Elton John and watch David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust performances to channel the energy of those 1970s musical icons into their characters.

“It’s been cool to watch them embody these famous performers and put this new spin into their performances,” Parr said.

Parr said despite MTP staging the show as a traditional musical, audiences can expect all the participatory hijinx of a traditional Rocky screening, such as the famed “virgin sacrifice” in which first-time viewers are brought up on stage before the show to be embarrassed for audience amusement, or audience callouts of famous lines. 

Dressing up and bringing props — except squirt guns — is highly encouraged, Parr said. MTP will be selling prop bags and t-shirts at the venue, as well as a full bar with a specialty drink called the “Timewarp.”

“One of the best things about Rocky is getting a super interactive audience,” Parr said. “Everyone always dresses up and has a good time. It feels so good to bring this back to a live audience.”

The Rocky Horror Show Live! opens at The Knight Stage on Oct. 15 and runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. The production closes with a midnight showing on Halloween. Tickets can be purchased for $20 at www.akroncivic.com or at the box office.

Photos provided by Francine Parr.

Abbey Marshall is the economic development reporter for The Devil Strip via Report for America and a musical theater aficionado in her free time. Email her at abbey@thedevilstrip.com to discuss any stage or movie musical, except Cats (2019).

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