Hang Onto Your Fishnets! CCM’s Spirited “ROCKY HORROR” Will Drive You Insane!

Review by Liz Eichler of “Rocky Horror Picture Show”: CCM Musical theatre

The bare-stage setting of “an abandoned movie theatre in Denton, Ohio on Halloween” is genius. As a group of young people start exploring and joking around the broken-down marquee, the old movie Phantoms reach out and transport them into another world. A theatre’s job is to transport you, and CCM’s “Rocky Horror Picture Show” does that so well, on so many levels.  It transported me to the midnight movies of my youth; it helped me see the nuances of the show though direction and framing, far superior to many other versions I’ve seen; and allowed me to be carried away as the phenomenal cast retelling of the story of the sweet transvestite, from transsexual, Transylvania.

And so it begins: young and naïve Brad (Jake Waford) and Janet (Mikayla Renfrow), caught in the rain when their car breaks down, approach a castle looking for a phone; instead they find a world where the rules they know are broken, allowing for sexual freedoms they never imagined, which they find both compelling and frightening. Just like horror movies of the 50’s, the world includes a maid and butler, the master, his science lab and creation, and some Rock and Roll.

Fans of Rocky Horror will be more than satisfied. There’s a lot of the old and plenty of new ideas in staging. The abandoned movie theatre is a great framework, and the set and costume pallet begins in black, white, and greys of B movies. The set pieces (designed by Joshua E. Gallagher) roll on and off and lock in place as needed, and the actors fluidly enter, exit, and roll over the tables, down the fire pole, sit in the seats and own the space.  Director and choreographer Vince de George knew what to keep sacred and what to explore. Janet and Brad are still square, butler and maid siblings Riff-Raff (Erich Schleck) and Magenta (Sofie Flores) bring weird to another level, the creation Rocky is more than appropriately beefcake and athletic. The star of the show is Ethan Zeph as master Frank ‘N’ Furter, whose moves, freedom, voice, and acting range assure a strong future.  Rounding out the ensemble is Delaney Guyer as a sweet and spunky Columbia, friend of CCM John Harrison as the Narrator, Joseph Von Kolnitz as over the top Eddie/Dr. Scott, and the Phantoms: Britta Cowan. Jack Johnson, Christian Kidd, Tyler Martin, Brandon Schumaker, Sasha Spitz, Veronica Stern and Jordan Walker. They are all a great ensemble vocally and in intricate movements on the studio stage. Glad to see k. Jenny Jones credited as the Fight and Intimacy Director as there are many intimate scenes.

Live music is in ample supply at CCM, and musical director Steven Goers conducts the off-stage musicians (I was in the balcony, so I think they were off-stage). Their sound was balanced well with the wonderful vocals, but at times the band was able to let loose, still at the level of a theatrical show, not a deafening rock concert. Sound (Hannah Werle) is rich and full, with some wonderful added effects.

Lighting (Michael E. Nardella) is crisp and bright or foggy and dark as needed. Costumes (Maddie Kevelson), hair and wigs (Kelly Yurko) are wonderful, with the design of the Floor Show costumes exceptional. (There must have been some amazing wardrobe and dressers backstage–lots of quick changes on stage and off, keeping the show moving quickly.)

Once again, CCM produces an amazing show. Even if you’ve seen it many times (on screen or on stage), this version is a must see.  Try to get tickets. You will be transported.  Call the CCM Box Office today (513)556-4183.