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Yes, Rocky Horror Is Back

BU on Broadway brings cult classic to campus

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The slide show above gives a sneak peak at BU on Broadway’s productionof The Rocky Horror Show, with Sarah Jill Bashein (CAS’11) playingJanet and Matt Lerner (COM’10) as Brad. Photos by Kalman Zabarsky

Two days before opening night, director Franki de la Vega is rounding up the cast and crew of BU on Broadway’s production of The Rocky Horror Show.

Things aren’t going well. The stage lights blew a breaker, the set isn’t finished, and some cast members are missing. Undaunted, de la Vega (COM’10) manages to corral everyone on stage for a pep talk.

“The past few weeks have been hectic,” she says, “but this show is going to be fabulous.”

It would be hard to go wrong with a show that’s been a cult classic for almost four decades. Written by British composer Richard O’Brien, The Rocky Horror Show debuted in London in 1973 and was adapted into a film in 1975. It gained notoriety during the late ’70s, when movie theaters began midnight film screenings, and fans — often dressed like the lead character, in fishnets and platform heels — have flocked to late-night showings ever since.

Rocky Horror is appealing because it encourages us to break free of our inhibitions and follow our instincts,” de la Vega says. “Although the show may seem silly and over-the-top, Richard O’Brien is really trying to show us that there’s no crime in letting loose.”

For the uninitiated, in The Rocky Horror Show the newly engaged Brad Majors, portrayed by Matt Lerner (COM’10), and Janet Weiss, played by Sarah Jill Bashein (CAS’11), stumble upon an old castle one rainy night. Inside, they discover a cast of outlandish characters, including Dr. Frank-N-Furter, played by Tyler Strickland (CAS’10), the bizarre and self-proclaimed “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania,” as well as the handsome — but slightly dimwitted — Rocky Horror and servants Riff-Raff and Magenta.

BU Today chats with de la Vega, Bashein, Lerner, and Strickland about the show’s music, its costumes (or lack of same), and its appeal.

BU Today: So, Tyler, how are the fishnets working out for you?
Strickland:
The fishnets aren’t the issue. It’s the six-inch heels. I’ve never worn heels, and I’ve been practicing at home, which really annoys the neighbor downstairs.

Did you wear them for Halloween?
De la Vega:
He’s not allowed to wear them on the street. It’s forbidden.

What are the rest of you wearing?
Bashein:
We’re naked!
Lerner: We’re not completely naked. Just in our underwear.

What’s that like?
Lerner:
It’s not a big deal. I’ve been in my underwear before on stage —
Bashein: Well, I haven’t!
Lerner: And the crowd seems to really enjoy it.
Bashein: It takes a lot of courage to be so vulnerable and bare — to step on stage in nothing but my underwear and say, ‘Here I am. This is what you get.’

How does this production differ from the film?
De la Vega:
Instead of the red and black Goth thing, we’re actually going for a neon glam rock style. All the phantoms are in bright pinks, greens, and yellows. There are a lot of studded belts. And Tyler has some interesting costumes.
Strickland: Yeah, we call the one I wear in the second act Tranny Ken Goes to the Beach. It’s a woman’s black bathing suit, but we sewed some sequins and other embellishments on it. And then I have a pair of small black leather booty shorts, heels, and fishnets.

Matt, are you jealous that Tyler gets to wear these outlandish costumes and you’re stuck in tighty whities?
Lerner:
Well, luckily in the second act Sarah Jill’s and my characters get to wear some crazy stuff: corsets and bright booty shorts.

Do you feel sexy when you wear them?
Bashein:
Absolutely. It’s not every day I get to prance around in fishnets and a boa.
De la Vega: Well, those shoes came from your closet.
Bashein: That’s true. The four-inch patent leather peep-toe humps — I mean pumps — are mine. Wow.

Would you like us to send some photos home to Mom and Dad?
Bashein: I’d really prefer that you didn’t. My dad is staying home for this one.
Lerner: My parents are coming, and I think they’re bringing my grandparents.
De la Vega: Do your grandparents know what the show is about?
Lerner: Um, I hope so. If not, it could be a little awkward.

The show is almost 40 years old. Why is it so enduring?
De la Vega:
Well, I think it ties into the whole idea of anything goes. Be yourself, be free, and give yourself over to —
Strickland: Absolute pleasure.
De la Vega: Also, I think audience participation is a big thing. Theater is such a collaborative process, and when you’re in the audience and yelling things at the actors, it makes for a very unique bonding experience because —
Strickland: The audience gets to be part of the show, as opposed to just witnessing it.

Are you handing out prop bags?
De la Vega:
Yes, we’re selling them for $1. They’ll have noisemakers, rubber gloves, playing cards, newspapers, party hats.

What do you like best about the music?
Lerner:
It’s rock and roll, man. It’s not your traditional musical theater music. It’s very upbeat, very rocky — pun fully intended.
De la Vega: It’s very ’50s-inspired; there’s a lot of doo-wop. I read that Richard O’Brien was inspired by the departure of the uptight, sexual repression of the ’50s and the arrival of the free-love culture of the ’60s. So the music is about that clash.
Strickland: The songs have a lot of grit, as opposed to the typical high, floating notes.
Bashein: But Matt and I get the best of both worlds. We have our typical ’50s love duet with ‘Dammit, Janet,’ and then we get to belt our faces off in the second act.

Is there a message behind Rocky Horror?
De la Vega:
There is, surprisingly. It’s about living in a world where blatant sexuality isn’t acceptable. But sometimes you have to give up your desires because you can’t survive purely by sexual instinct. At some point, you have to conform. And that’s why Frank —
Strickland: Don’t give it away!
De la Vega: Yeah, just come to the show. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

BU on Broadway’s production of The Rocky Horror Show plays on Friday, November 6, and Saturday, November 7, at 8 p.m. at the School of Law Auditorium, 765 Commonwealth Ave. Tickets are $12, $10 for students.

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu.

5 Comments

5 Comments on Yes, Rocky Horror Is Back

  • Anonymous on 11.06.2009 at 12:41 pm

    Rocky Horror

    My wife and I went on opening night and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The very talented cast and crew did a wonderful job. There was plenty of energy, enthusiasm and comedy. Nice job !

    Break a leg,

    Mr and Mrs Cobb

  • Anonymous on 11.06.2009 at 2:52 pm

    SO GREAT!

    I saw this last night and it was a BLAST! A must see show this weekend! The cast was flawless, and technical elements were spot-on, and it was hilarious. GO GO GO! I would pay much more than $10 for this experience!

  • Anonymous on 11.06.2009 at 3:47 pm

    Hilarious!

    I love the text interview with the cast and the director. It added a lot of color to the even more colorful slide show and made for a thoroughly entertaining read. A refreshing change of pace from the straight story or review.

  • Anonymous on 11.10.2009 at 5:40 pm

    Rocky Horror

    Everybody should see it once!! Each time is a different spin depending on who’s directing I imagine. Nice to see fresh talent….great interview with the performers!! The slide show is terrific….keep up the good work Vicky Waltz!

  • reolica purses on 11.27.2009 at 1:39 am

    i have been searching for this interview from long and also the slide show must have been more interesting if some more colors were added .

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