On the way back from a middle school band trip a very long time ago, we unexpectedly stopped at Penn Square Mall for lunch. While most kids were blowing their cash on food court eats, I instead strolled over to the long-gone Camelot Records. In their always dependable cut-out bin, that’s where, on a whim, I bought the gender-bending soundtrack to The Rocky Horror Picture Show on cassette.
Even though I had never seen the film, I obsessively wore the tape out in my Walkman knock-off, methodically memorizing every near-nude number inside and out. It wasn’t even until high school when I finally rented the flick on VHS, desperately loving it but learning to keep it a dirty secret; between the religious Oklahomans that dubbed it a “perversion” and a father that told me he’d “kill me” if I ever brought a gay person into his house, for many years I had to be a closeted Frankie fan.
Yes, throughout the years, I have never been to a film screening and, even worse, I had never been to a live stage performance. But, I figured that, in my burgeoning middle age, I was mature enough to give myself over to absolute pleasure—some twenty-five odd years after the fact—by finally attending the Lyric Theatre’s comically debaucherous production of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show.
Even though costumes were encouraged, I didn’t wear one; that didn’t mean I didn’t get a slight thrill from watching the ones that were unapologetically unafraid to publicly take that jump to the left. The famed collection of props—party hats, toilet paper, feather boa and so on—were for sale in popcorn boxes in the lobby for a couple of bucks; purchasing one for minimal use, my date and I made our way to our seats, the theater’s lobby done up in a RKO pastiche.
Making the long-running show their very own, right from the uniquely-staged opening number of “Science Fiction/Double Feature” with usherettes Magenta and Columbia (Kat Metcalfe and Janna Linae Schmid) doubling as the notorious introductory lips, it really set the libidinous mood for a rather special night where milquetoast couple Brad (Antonio Rodriguez) and Janet (Emily J. Pace) inadvertently intrudes on one of the Master’s affairs.
With the lusciously lascivious Dr. Frank ‘n’ Furter (Eric Ulloa) entering down from the rafters like a Parisian showgirl, an orgasmic rush of lust coursed through the nethers of most of the entranced audience—my own loins included—fresh from dancing “The Time Warp” in the thin aisles. The whole musical made it clear that it’s a blast that Frankie’s landed, with Ulloa’s interpretation worth a million batted lashes.
The one thing, however, that both my date and I naughtily noticed throughout the show was how much more rebelliously explicit this stage production is, offering key scenes of bisexual seduction with very little left to the lubricious imagination, most dutifully earning that Oklahoma drubbing of “perverse” perhaps; upon leaving the theatre, it was hard to not sing “touch-a touch-a touch me” as you touch-a touch-a touched your consensual partner rather illicitly in the Lyric parking lot.
After too many wasted years, my Rocky Horror cherry was finally popped; the Lyric’s production is an immersive dalliance that is a guiding star to a tempestuous light of b-grade lust and z-grade movies, a nasty trick and a tasty treat that should be a part of most people’s garter-clad Halloween. Possibly Thanksgiving as well.