Theatre is more than just stimulating entertainment. Through the hard work and toil put forward by the cast and crew, theatre acts as a conduit for escapism.
That’s the message Meilna Schein of Big Apple Productions drove home as her team rocked their way through the dress rehearsal of the fourth annual Rocky Horror Show Monday.
And, in true Big Apple Productions style, the team did not disappoint.
Red hot horn tunes backed by rock ‘n roll drums and burning piano jams fill the room as the live band turns the ignition over, kicking off the start of the show with a smooth dittie.
Soon after, Charlotte Backman introduces the show with a booming operatic performance, her sonic sounds mimicking the vibrant pink skirt she dons as she sings of the late night, double feature picture show, by R.K.O.
The only initial upset is Backman’s minimal stage-time, with a brief return to close off the performance, as she boasts a powerhouse presence that sends trills across the serene O’Keefe Ranch setting.
As Backman sings her way off stage, Melaney Campbell as Janet Weiss and Craig Howard as Brad Majors — two young, ordinary, healthy kids — slide into the spotlight where our respectable, if initially intentionally dull, hero professes his love for his sweetheart, which Campbell fills with girl-next-door charm.
With a book in hand, in comes the first of the night’s guest celebrity narrators. In each performance, three will grace the stage. Monday night’s dress rehearsal brought in Heath Fletcher, Betty Selin and Barry Dorval, who gets in the Rocky Horror Show spirit as he walks the stage clad in white Fruit of the Looms.
Pushing forward the plot and adding zest to the narration, phantoms act as the foul-mouthed chorus that supports the audience and riles up the crowd with their suggestive banter.
As Brad and Janet make their way into the ominous castle to find the assistance their plight requires, they are introduced to the twisted Riff Raff, which veteran performer Don Cecile bellows, drawing from his Rocky Horror pedigree. Cecile is backed by the lovely, if mildly frightening, Keyanna Burgher armed with a Bride of Dracula accent as Magenta and the vibrant and energetic Amelia Sirianni as Columbia.
But no one seems as at home on stage as Brian Martin as Dr. Frank N. Furter, clad in a tight vest, thick eye makeup, revealing undies and fishnets that leave little to the imagination. His tittering is entrancing, horrifying and unforgettable, for better or for worse.
Howard and Campbell are taken under Martin’s spell and undressed by his lackeys, yet they appear as comfortable on stage in their underwear as they are in conservative garb.
And it’s true for all of the performers who are brave enough to get on stage in little more than their skin.
As Furter unveils his prized possession, Rocky Horror — played to perfection by Richard Chippendale — the audience goes wild for his bare, chiseled chest as he bares it all on stage with only a skimpy gold Speedo as armor. Sorry, ladies — he belongs to Furter, and you don’t want to cross the self-proclaimed “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania.”
Given Chippendale’s reception, it wouldn’t matter how he sounded or performed. Luckily for those in the audience whose jaws remained intact at his unveiling, he can perform.
As the play carries on and more standout talent is introduced without missing a single beat, it becomes clear that the Rocky Horror Show isn’t as shallow as it may seem. It conveys a message, expertly delivered by the cast and crew, of acceptance, individualism and, in a round-about way, love.
At the beginning of the rehearsal, Schein said theatre is not only about art but escapism. And, in the Rocky Horror Show under the guidance of director Neal Facey of Kelowna, they achieved just that.
The fourth annual Rocky Horror Show runs Oct. 25 and 26 at 7:30 p.m., and Oct. 27 and 28 at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. at O’Keefe Ranch. Tickets are available for $38.25 adult and $59 VIP pass through the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca. Explicit language and sexual themes. Viewer discretion is advised.