Incline Theatre Time Warps back to “The Rocky Horror Show”

Sneak Peek by Laurel Humes of “The Rocky Horror Show”: Incline Theatre

“We are throwing a big, huge, crazy, sexy party at Incline, and the more people who come to a party, the more fun it is.”

That is director Matt Wilson’s pitch for The Rocky Horror Show, opening Feb. 16 at Warsaw Federal Incline Theater.

And, yes, there is audience participation on certain nights.

The cult-like popularity of the movie version may have obscured the fact that The Rocky Horror Show started life as a stage musical in London in 1973. A short-lived Broadway run followed. Then came the movie musical, The Rocky Horror Picture Show – which can still be seen at midnight every other Saturday night at Cincinnati’s Esquire Theatre.

“Our cast went to see it at the Esquire,” Wilson said. “It is a cult phenomenon, because the audience participation has made it so much more than a movie. We think we can capitalize on that cult phenomenon.”

Richard O’Brien (book, music, lyrics) based the musical on old sci-fi and horror B movies. It is a dark and stormy night when the young, straitlaced couple Brad (played by Dakota Mullins) and Janet (Caroline Chisholm) are forced by car trouble to seek shelter at an old castle. Not any old castle – ha! – but occupied by mad transvestite scientist Dr. Frank ‘n Furter (Matt Krieg) and his household of sexually adventuresome Transylvanians.

Dr. Frank ‘n Furter has created a Frankenstein-style monster, except Rocky Horror (played by Tyler Kuhlman) is a physically perfect muscle man, complete with “blond hair and a tan.”

The zaniness that flows from that point includes various couplings, space aliens and songs like “Dammit Janet,” “Sweet Transvestite,” “I Can Make You a Man” and “Time Warp.”

“You do have to have an open mind and a good sense of humor to enjoy the show,” Wilson noted. “I cannot think of a show more pure camp and fun.”

“The challenge for the actors is this acting style – this is not Tennessee Williams or Hamlet,” where you’re digging deep to ‘find’ the character, Wilson said. “This is really kind of cheesy, B-movie, outlandish situations. It calls for over-the-top acting.”

Another challenge: The audience gets to talk back.

Embracing the tradition that has evolved around the stage show and movie, Incline has designated half its Rocky Horror shows for audience participation: Feb. 17, 18, 22, 24, 25 and March 1, 3, 4. Audience members are encouraged to wear costumes, shout out responses to lines or sing along. They also may hold up or toss props during the show; the theater will sell prop bags of toast, water gun, playing cards, glow sticks and newspaper.

“There is no script for shout-outs,” Wilson said. “Some audience lines are standard, some are regional. We’ve built it in for the audience to be encouraged and maybe even prompted.”

In its second season, the Incline’s District Series has continued to present contemporary, edgy plays and musicals. The first season included the musicals Rent and Avenue Q. But The Rocky Horror Show has always been on the short list, according to Tim Perrino, executive artistic director for Cincinnati Landmark Productions, which includes Warsaw Federal incline and Covedale theaters.

“We saved this show, to guarantee we brought the sass, spice and outrageous fun in Year 2,” Perrino said. “It is so cool to have a no-holds-barred, whacked out, sexy and crazy comic musical like The Rocky Horror Show to light up the late winter.”

The Rocky Horror Show runs through March 5 at Warsaw Federal Incline Theater, 801 Matson Place, in the Incline District of East Price Hill. For tickets, call 513-241-6550 or go to