News Column

City Stage doing the 'Time Warp' again

October 23, 2013

YellowBrix

Oct. 23--City Stage has a lengthy history with the rock musical. This is the fourth time the troupe has mounted the show; all previous local performances were at City Stage, the last being 2010. That year, in addition to a full Wilmington run, they also took the show to Memorial Auditorium in Raleigh where the show was named one of the Top 10 Touring Productions of 2010 by Triangle Arts & Entertainment.

As in years past, City Stage's show will closely resemble Richard O'Brien's original "The Rocky Horror Show." The stage production preceded the film and includes material not seen on screen.

"We wanted to stay true to what 'Rocky Horror' was supposed to be, which was a rock show that pushed the envelope for its time. But we also like to put our spin on it," said co-director and cast member Justin Smith. "I tell the cast to think of the version we are going for as WWE meets 'Moulin Rouge' meets 'Rocky Horror.' We have taken everything that it was -- this very sexual, weird, mysterious rock musical -- and we have tried to up the ante."

For the first time, the troupe is staging the musical at Thalian Hall, where Smith said the scale is "certainly much grander." Taking full advantage of the larger venue, the troupe got to fill out the ensemble with more people, work with more lighting and add more effects, including a massive silhouette bedroom scene that opens the second act.

Fans of the show will notice a few changes to the music as well. According to Chiaki Ito, the show's music director, the songs will be faster paced, which is more along the lines of the 2000 Broadway revival of the show than the original cast recording.

"(The revival) rocks harder than the original. And our version puts a little pep in the music, which is fun for live audiences," said Ito, who noted that some of the alterations were included in City Stage's 2010 staging. That year, she was named one of the best music directors for 2010 by the Independent of Raleigh.

Another example of Ito's enhancements is third-act ballad "I'm Going Home," which she's infused with a gospel sound that Smith said makes it edgier.

As for Smith, although he vowed that 2010's performance would be his last in the eccentric leading role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, he will once again don the high heels of the film's iconic alien cross dresser, adding a few inches to his already towering 6-foot-7-inch height.

"It took me a week, but I have gotten very excited about the role again," Smith said. "This show is one of those I look forward to every time we do it."

Smith said the joy of performing "Rocky Horror" comes, in part, from its long-standing cultural significance.

"'Rocky Horror' is a classic. It's edgy, it pushes the envelope and it has a hard rock 'n' roll soundtrack," Smith said. "Our core, base audience yearns for a show like 'Rocky Horror.'"

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(c)2013 the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.)

Visit the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.) at www.starnewsonline.com

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