Thursday, October 20, 2016


It's Astounding...

Time is Fleeting...

     The seminal cult classic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, is forty-one years young this year, premiering in 1975.  In response to this anniversary, (among other reasons), FOX decided to jump on the televised musical train, and produce a remake.  Aptly titled The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again!, the remake is a different take on the recent string of televised musicals.  Instead of a capturing a live performance, it was completely filmed on location and on sound stages.  I consider this both a good thing and a bad thing, which I will get to later on.  

     With a cast full of Broadway veterans and some relative unknowns, FOX had a lot riding on this one.  Though NBC's musicals (The Sound of Music, Peter Pan, The Wiz) were well received, there were still plenty of things wrong with them, aka, no live audience.  Things took an upturn when Grease Live aired this past January.  FOX knew the problems that had plagued the other broadcasts, and gave a remarkable product.  There will always be complainers, but Grease Live was a step in the right direction.  Based on that success, Rocky should work out pretty damn well, and I personally believe it did turn out well.  Are there those that disagree with me?  Well, of course! There were problems, but overall, I enjoyed the broadcast immensely.  

Like I did with Grease Live, I'm going to go through the things I wasn't a fan of first, followed by where I'm on the fence, ending with elements I enjoyed.  

Things I Disliked
  • Christina Milian as Magenta.  She did nothing for me, and tried too hard to be Patricia Quinn, the original film Magenta.  Even if this were not her intent, it is how she came across.  She wasn't bad, but she wasn't that good.  She was just meh. 
  • How Eddie came on the scene.  It makes no sense for him to crash through the window of the castle on the motorcycle if half his brain is in Rocky.  He needs to be in a freezer or something similar, inside the castle.
  • The sound editing/lip syncing.  There were a lot of strong voices and vocal choices.  That being said, Adam Lambert's lip syncing during "Hot Patootie" was abysmal.  Also, "Time Warp" backing vocals had no oomph.  Where was the energy when they recorded that, because Reeve Carney brought the house down.  
  • The attempts to replicate the original film cast.  For the most part, I was a fan of Laverne Cox and Victoria Justice.  They were doing some great work, but Victoria seemed to be trying too hard to sound like Susan Sarandon.  By the end, she finally lets lose and uses the vocal power she has.  Same thing with Laverne Cox.  I wanted to see her take on Frank, but a lot of the time she seemed to be trying to emulate Tim Curry in her vocal delivery.  It just didn't work for me.  Once we got to "Planet Schmanet Janet," she was making her own choices and I was sucked in.  "Don't Dream It, Be It" and "I'm Going Home" were beautifully done.  
Things I'm On the Fence About
  • Legitimately filming it instead of doing a live broadcast.  I loved all that they were able to do by filming it: shooting on exteriors, building these massive environmental sets that you can play on, just the sheer majesty that is needed to match the ludicrous elements of the script.  At the same time, there were a lot of moments where I felt the energy was lacking from the performance.  The addition of the movie house audience was great, but I felt they were vastly under-utilized, especially with the amount of interaction that normally happens.  
  • Ben Vereen as Doctor Scott.  Really, I'm just not the biggest fan of Dr. Scott, unless he's doubled as Eddie.  Love "Eddy's Teddy", but Vereen seemed almost one note the entire time. Meh.
Things I Enjoyed
  • Laverne Cox.  As I previously mentioned, there were a few things that I wasn't a huge fan of, but overall she killed it.  From that entrance that was almost reminiscent of Mame to her heartbreaking version of "I'm Going Home", I enjoyed her performance.  She was not afraid to get down and dirty with her portrayal, and she was one hell of a dancer.  I hope that she gets the chance to perform live much more.
  •  Victoria Justice, when she wasn't trying to be Susan Sarandon.  
  • Ryan McCartan as Brad.  Great voice, he wasn't afraid to play camp. 
  • Staz Nair as Rocky.  To me, Rocky is one of the hardest parts of the show.  In terms of lines, there really isn't much there.  However, he is the title character.  He really needs to be the beefiest beefcake of all time, with "blonde hair and a tan".  In the original film, Peter Hinwood was fine as the character, but his singing was substantially sub par.  In fact, he was dubbed by Trevor White.  "The Sword of Damocles" is not necessarily an easy song, and Nair knocked it out of the park.  Vocals were amazing, and he was a perfect physical specimen.
  • Ivy Levan as Trixie the Usherette.  Normally, Magenta doubles as Trixie and sings "Science Fiction Double Feature."  While that works well on stage, I loved seeing her working around the cinema: ushing, selling tickets and concessions, and enjoying her popcorn.  Beautiful vocals that warmly welcomed the audience to an evening of debauchery. 
    • Addendum while I'm thinking of it: the use of the cinema as the Castle was genius.  I spent a good amount of time looking at the little differences that were made so that the viewer could recognize the theater we were welcomed to. 
  •  The Phantoms.  I'm normally not a big fan of the ensemble in Rocky Horror because I just consider them set dressing in the movie: they're all dressed similarly and just mildly unsettling.  William Ivey Long made me pay even closer attention to them by making them individuals.  Each had a very distinct personality, but several also were Easter Eggs to the first film or the leads.  During "Wild and Untamed Thing", there is a phantom dancing by Dr. Scott, dressed like Ben Vereen as the Leading Player in Pippin.  Earlier, during "Hot Patootie", one of the phantoms above the stage is dressed like Meat Loaf, who played Eddie in the original film.  Like I said, the perfect acknowledgement to the source materials.   
  • Adam Lambert as Eddie.  Let me be frank-n-furter (bad joke): "Hot Patootie" is my favorite song in the show.  I'm a fan of Meat Loaf and his performance, so I was a bit apprehensive when Adam Lambert was announced.  As I mention earlier, his lip syncing was kind of bad, but he had the vocals and made the part his own.  I couldn't really ask for more than that.  
  • Reeve Carney as Riff Raff was absolutely brilliant.  He (and Columbia) were the best part of "Time Warp" to me.  This may go against what I've said about other characters, but I liked that he channeled original film Riff Raff, Richard O'Brien.  I'm aware I shouldn't have a double standard, but O'Brien wrote the show.  It is his baby, and there needs to be some homage to him in the performance.  That being said, Reeve Carney blew it out of the water, especially the vocals.  
  • Annaleigh Ashford as Columbia is the highlight of the entire show.  Never once did I think she was trying to be Little Nell.  In fact, she was trying to be Cyndi Lauper, which I was really okay with.  Great dancing, amazing vocals, and delightful character choices.  Nothing more to say on that.
  • Tim Curry, just because he's Tim Curry.  

      Much like with Grease Live, social media opinions have been erratic. People wanted Tim Curry and Susan Sarandon.  They wanted what they were comfortable with.  Like I said with my post on Grease Live,

They wanted what was familiar to them, and got hostile when that didn't
happen.  But I consider them morons for expecting that.  The film happened in
1978, and it is archived.  We have those wonderful performances on tape/dvd/etc. 
I went into this not wanting a recreation of the film.  That's not original, nor is
it beneficial to the art form.  Theatre (and film) are constantly changing and
evolving.  What was powerful in the 70's wouldn't have the same impact today. 
That's why I consider Grease: Live a success.  I loved it, I will be buying it on
DVD, and I will gladly watch it again and again 

     I will be buying The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again, and I will gladly do the Time Warp again.