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Rocky Horror Review

Rocky Horror poster.jpg By Colin Dabkowski
October 15, 2009, 6:37 AM

It’s time to do the “Time Warp” again.   Every year, as Halloween approaches, we can be sure that some theater troupe, somewhere in Western New York, will mount a production of the classic cult musical known as “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
Often, these productions feature amateur performers motivated more by their passion for the show’s eccentric characters than by a desire to produce a compelling piece of theater. But in a thoroughly entertaining production of the musical that opened Oct. 8 in the ALT Theatre, the New ALT Performance Group flips that notion on its head.  Along with the occasional performance at Buffalo United Artists, this is just about the most fun I’ve had in a Buffalo theater. And, judging by the hoots and hollers of the packed house on a recent Saturday night, the same went for the rest of the crowd.

From the opening number to the closing curtain, the cast of the ALT’s “Rocky Horror” executes Richard O’Brien’s gender-bending science fiction extravaganza with no shortage of energy and twisted deviance.
For the uninitiated, the story — which makes little to no traditional sense — centers on the travails of Brad Majors (John Kreuzer) and Janet Weiss (Candice Kogut), a pair of squares whose car breaks down during a stormy night on an unfamiliar road. Frightened out of their suburban skins, the pair hoofs it to the nearest house, which, as it happens, is a Gothic castle occupied by strange and grotesque characters. They become prisoners of a sort, under the control of Frank-N-Furter (Jeffrey Coyle), a transvestite in the process of creating a muscle-bound human pet by the name of Rocky Horror (Michael Renna).  The whole affair is narrated by a tweedy, pipe-smoking professor, played expertly in this production by Rich Kraemer.

Any production of “Rocky Horror” sinks or swims on the performance of Frank-N-Furter. In this regard, Coyle, who has appeared at a number of area theaters in more serious roles, nails it. The easy approach would be to mimic Tim Curry’s bar-setting performance in Jim Sharman’s 1975 film. But Coyle adds his own kind of nonchalant sass to the role, elevating the character from mere cartoon to, well, fully fleshed animation.  Exceptional performances also come from Kogut as Weiss (her “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me” is brilliant), Kreuzer as the buttoned-up Brad and the clear-voiced Christopher Andreana as Riff Raff.  Sarah Brown as the alien Magenta takes the cake, delivering a performance full of physical quirks and knowing looks that effectively upstages anyone else unlucky enough to share a scene with her.

Director Drew McCabe has held all the elements together expertly and kept the show going without a hint of creakiness.  If “Rocky Horror” is part of your yearly Halloween tradition, you would do well to let your VHS copy collect dust on the shelf and head out to the ALT. And if you’ve never taken in the twisted tale, there’s never been a better time.

“The Rocky Horror Show”  ★★★ 1/2