CCM’s “The Rocky Horror Show” Thrills, Chills, and Fulfills

Review of by Nathan Top of “Rocky Horror Picture Show”: CCM Musical Theatre

As UC College Conservatory of Music’s current musical, “The Rocky Horror Show”, began, I noticed across the way four empty front-row seats in an otherwise sold-out theater. During the production, I came to realize that the individuals who were assigned such seats but unable to attend were the unluckiest people in Cincinnati that evening. 

CCM’s production of “The Rocky Horror Show” is the most joyful, raucous, and irreverent I have had the pleasure of experiencing. The plot consists of newly engaged couple, Brad and Janet, being stranded in the middle of nowhere and forced to ask for help at the “Frankenstein Place.” Once they arrive, they are guided by Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter through a Wonderland of colorful, sensual characters, each with their own agenda for the evening. 

Most people have at least heard of this show, if not seen it. Similar to a religious setting, the show included many non-scripted rituals of audience participation for those in the know.  The show presented by cast, pit, and crew reinforced why his show is iconic. Brad (Jake Waford) and Janet (Mikayla Renfrow) are hilarious in their earnest naivete, portrayed in their first number, “Damn It, Janet.”  Riff-Raff (Erich Schleck) is deliciously eerie from his first solo during “Over at the Frankenstein Place” and, when joined with Magenta (Sofie Flores) and Columbia (Delaney Guyer), the trio brings the house down with the legendary musical number “Time Warp.” Rocky (Andrew Astat) is not only appropriately chiseled for the role but blessed with a golden voice, revealed during his number “The Sword of Damocles.” Joseph VonKolnitz, portraying both Eddie and Doctor Scott, energetically breezes through his number “Hot Patootie.” However, the true star of the show is Frank ‘N’ Furter, played by the hypnotic Ethan Zeph. From his entrance with the show anthem “Sweet Transvestite,” the audience was captivated. Zeph’s charisma and magnetism elevates the role to what it should always be: iconic. The ensemble of Phantoms (Britta Cowan, Jack Johnson, Christian Kidd, Tyler martin, Brandon Schumacker, Sasha Spitz, Veronica Stern, Jordyn Walker) is a well oiled machine. Singing, dancing, moving set pieces, engaging with the audience, the Phantoms set the tone for the rowdy, ninety-minute whirlwind of a show. 

In looking at the intimate Cohen Family Studio Theater, the space could have felt claustrophobic with such an ambitious show. This is a non-issue thanks to scenic designer and student Joshua E. Gallagher. The world Gallagher has built is transportive and interactive, adding to the fast pace of the show. Costume designer and student Maddie Kevelson captures, with absolutely no subtlety, the sensual color of the show. From head to high-heels, each cast member is dressed to show-stopping sexual spectacle, climaxing with the “Floor Show” before the finale.

The pit, compiled and led by musical director Stephen Goers, is filled with some of Cincinnati’s best musicians and it grooves hard. Aaron Jacobs on bass and Devon Leigh on drums lay it down while Brad Myers shreds over the awesome score. As with most rock musicals, the threat of the cast being overtaken by the band is looming. This show avoids that with effective sound design by Hannah Werle and Chris Jacobs, truly the unsung heroes of the show.

If there are any seats left, I would advise you to fill them ASAP. CCM’s “The Rocky Horror Show” runs through November 10th. Tickets can be purchased here.