The Rocky Horror Show - Circle in the Square (Uptown) - Friday, August 31, 2001

I first saw this production of The Rocky Horror Show in December of last year, only a little more than a month after it opened. And, boy, how things have changed!

To be fair, though, when I saw the show, it was on a Monday. Probably a fairly atypical theatre night, all things considered, and the show had just opened to mostly lukewarm reviews, and word of mouth had yet to spread. There were some people who were shouting out lines a la the movie, but at that point, it was clearly the exception rather than the rule.

Tonight, though, it was exactly the opposite. The audience was really into everything, coming up with lines at all the... uh... appropriate times, and even some inappropriate ones. The atmosphere seemed to be the controlled type of anarchy I can imagine producer Jordan Roth and director Christopher Ashley were going for. For those either wholly or mostly unfamiliar with the show (this was only my second exposure to it in any form), it could be a bewildering experience, but if you know the tricks, and if you're really into it, the show can really be a trip.

It's difficult, then, for me to know exactly what to say. That isn't really my scene, so I have to judge the show as the show. And, on that basis, I think the show itself is weaker--the "show without the show," such as it is, has taken over, almost to the level where watching the stage is pointless. I think Jarrod Emick has improved--he was far less stiff this time around. But Alice Ripley lost even more of what little innocence she brought to the role to begin with. Daphne Rubin-Vega was broader, and Mark Price just didn't have that "something" that Raul Esparza did. I'm happy to report, though, that Kristin Lee Kelly is a vast improvement over Joan Jett. While I don't like some of the improvisational aspects she brought to the role, having someone who can act and sing is a nice change.

This was Terrence Mann's second performance, and he clearly needs some time to grow into the role. He didn't seem completely comfortable with Frank 'n' Furter's physicality, or the audience's lines--he stepped over more than a couple, though he got in a few digs of his own, which was good to see. With a dynamic like this, this is completely understandable, and Mann performed admirably under the cicumstances. His uniquely identifiable speaking and singing voice were perfect for Frnak, while still different enough from Tom Hewett to make an impression.

While I'm not sure I necessarily approve of the stage show being redefined this much, to the point where it's almost entirely indistinguishable from the movie, the experience was the goal of the production, and from that point of view, they succeeded completely. And that, I suppose, is what matters. After all, people don't go to either the movie or the play for the story--I defy anyone to explain it, particularly the floor show near the end. Roth and Ashley are giving the people what they want. It may not be the greatest thing ever--it's assuredly not--but that doesn't matter to all the people who were there tonight having the greatest time. The real show at The Circle in the Square is, of course, not onstage, but in the audience. And that, I suppose, is worth the price of a ticket.

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