Theatre Review: ‘Rocky Horror Show’ at Out Front Theatre Company

Kiona D. Reese as Dr. Frank N. Furter (Courtesy Tyler Ogburn Photography)

It’s the Halloween season, and evidently that’s reason enough for Out Front Theatre Company, Atlanta’s only official LGBTQ performance theatre, to offer us their version of “The Rocky Horror Show,” running through Nov. 5.

It’s been one year since the still-new company burst onto the Atlanta scene with a zany, charming “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”; earlier this year “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told” caused quite a stir, causing some conservative organizations to protest the show before it even opened. But the protestations were much ado about nothing, for “The Greatest Story” was delightful, innocuous (okay, there was a touch of nudity), and even metaphysical. It won Out Front many new fans, including yours truly.

As you know, there’s quite a bit of unrest and feelings of disenfranchisement afoot in the country these days, and “Rocky Horror,” a show where the “outsiders” rule the roost, seems just what the doctor ordered.

Director Matthew Busch says that “With national conversations regarding gender identity and sexual fluidity so prevalent, we decided to switch some things up to ensure representation…If there is any show that can ever be gender-bent, it’s ‘Rocky.’ And so we did.”

I suppose the primary switch in Richard O’Brien’s (book, music, lyrics) legendary cult musical is having the master of ceremonies, the “sweet transvestite from Transylvania” Dr. Frank N. Furter, be played by a real woman (gasp). This either works for you or it doesn’t, but plaudits are due to Kiona D. Reese for her swing-for-the-fences in your face saucy portrayal. In fact, by the time she infuses her final number “I’m Going Home” with a flat-out gospel fervor, you’ll probably be cheering her on.

Ally Duncan, Jacob Jones, Kiona D. Reece and Max Mattox in The Rocky Horror Show.

The plot is so well known, with squares Brad and Janet (Jacob Jones and Ally Duncan) out on a dark and stormy night (“I think we passed a castle a little ways back”), that I shall not recant it here. You know what you’re in for; if not, you’re a virgin (in “Rocky Horror” parlance); and you’d best just hang on for the ride (I’d leave small children at home).

I dislike comparisons, but I must mention that Actors’ Express (Out Front’s around-the-corner big sister) did a superb “Rocky” in 2014, one that sticks in the memory, and for polish and flair was overpowering. But Out Front’s pluckiness and spirit are winning, and ’tis the season to be weird, right? So you might as well go and let your freak flag fly.

It’s a fun cast, including Joe Arnotti (Magenta), Caty Bergmark (Riff-Raff), Max Mattox (Rocky), Josh Robinson (Eddie/Dr. Scott) and others.

Music direction by Nick Silvestri, sound design by Daniel Pope, and choreography is by Jordan Keyon Smith. Silvestri and Pope are pros, so I was puzzled on opening night that the sound seemed to overpower the words of the singers at times. I’m sure adjustments have been made.

You know that the cult film “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975) has become the longest continually showing movie (in midnight shows and other venues) in history; if you’ve never seen it, you’re a true square; and the Plaza Theatre awaits.

Meanwhile, Out Front’s “Rocky” is a celebration of otherness; “Don’t dream it; be it!” Before they “Time Warp” into history, “Go on over, girl, and let ’em give you a thrill,” as Aretha Franklin used to sing.

For tickets and information, visit outfronttheatre.com.

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