A Celebration of Sass and Sin: The MainLine Presents Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show

Rocky Horror celebrations are a staple of Halloween festivities in Montreal. Revolving around the musical play, Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show and its film adaptation, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, every year hundreds of people fasten their garter belts to dance the Time Warp again!

There are generally two Rocky Horror Shows in this town.

There’s the Halloween Ball at the Imperial Theatre on Bleury, which features a costume contest, a screening of the film, actors miming the film on stage – with a few amusing ad libs – and audience participation complete with props and call lines. The other show is the play: Richard O’Brien’s musical playing at the Mainline theatre on St Laurent.

It was the latter show that I had the privilege of enjoying this year. Those who have been to the Halloween Ball but not Mainline’s play are doing themselves a disservice as it is truly something.

The Mainline production features actors that do more than mime. The cast is doing all the singing and dancing and speaking of lines. The only audience participation is the yelling of call lines, something the production openly encourages. The actors give as good as they get from hecklers without missing their stride.

There is no throwing of rice or toilet paper, and no one will squirt you with water. The band is live and the “phantoms” who act as backup singers, dancers, and extras, are clearly all skilled performers.

I was at The Rocky Horror Show this past Saturday night and I was not disappointed. The cast was top notch as ever, the music spectacular, and the ambiance was not that of a play so much as that of avid listeners watching the lively telling of a very fun story.

Elyann Quessy reprised her role this year as Janet, the innocent, newly-engaged virgin who gets corrupted over the course of the play. Her pipes were impressive as ever while maintaining the squeak and squeal her character required. Despite the teal hair suggestive of a more rebellious nature in the actress, she was convincing as the innocent girl seduced.

Adrian MacDonald played her fiancé, Brad, replacing Anthony Schuller of last year’s performance. A regular attendee of Montreal’s Rocky Horror celebrations, I have very particular expectations when it comes to Brad. The Brad I know is a fumbling virginal dork trying to assert the aggressive masculinity he doesn’t have.

MacDonald is a great singer and he can clearly do comedy, but he was too masculine for the part. Rather than a fumbling dork, he came off as an irate but otherwise average guy. Here’s hoping he finds his inner geek and hams it up a little more in future performances.

Franco De Crescentis’ Riff Raff is a sight to behold. He was in the play last year, and in the role he manages to surpass the play’s creator, Richard O’Brien, who played Riff Raff in the film. Riff Raff is an Igor-like butler, but in most portrayals he’s just creepy. De Crescentis gives the character a sexy intensity you do not expect from the character, and it works.

Sarah Kulaga-Yoskovitz reprises her role this year as Magenta. As she did last year, she opened the play by singing Science Fiction Double Feature with one of the phantoms, and Kulaga-Yoskovitz can sing. Magenta’s Eastern European accent was consistent throughout the play as was her chemistry with Riff Raff.

Cassandra Bluethner played Columbia, replacing last year’s Maxine Segalowitz. Segalowitz is a tough act to follow and unfortunately Bluethner’s portrayal didn’t do it for me. Columbia is a groupie and in my experience she’s supposed to be feisty and almost childlike. This year’s portrayal reminded me more of a petulant teenager in that “I hate everybody” phase. Her dancing and singing were good, but I wanted more from the character.

Kenny Streule played the Narrator, whom die-hard Rocky fans will know as the Criminologist. His bits are some of the most heavily heckled, and Streule handled it well despite the fact that English is clearly not his first language.

Not sure whether his costume changes between bits were his idea or that of Director Amy Blackmore, but it did help keep the audience on their toes.

Sam Boucher’s Rocky was good, but once again I found myself wishing to see a portrayal that was a lot more physical.

Dr Scott and Eddie were played by Kenny Stein, who also played the roles last year. His Eddie is always good, but his Dr Scott was even better than last year, channeling Dr. Strangelove in his performance. It’s an addition to the character that makes perfect sense, and Stein does it well.

I’ve saved my review of Frank n’ Furter for last because the character is so important to the film and play. Stephanie McKenna is playing the part again this year and she is great, proving that a woman can play Frank as well as any man. Her replies to heckles were seamless and her physicality was indicative of an above average strength and agility that made her performance acrobatic in all the right ways. The one thing that was disappointing about Frank had to do with wardrobe and makeup.

The Frank n’ Furter I know and love wears loud makeup and costumes reminiscent of 70s and 80s glam rock. Frank’s costumes this year were more conservative and the makeup was lacking the garish androgyny of his signature style. It is McKenna’s sass and strength that saved the character from its otherwise boring look.

The band was amazing and Katharine Paradis on saxophone gave the music a more gritty sound suited to the show’s sexual content. The choreography of Amy Blackmore, Holly Greco, Patrick Lloyd Brennan, and Jessica Rae was almost flawless and the phantoms’ execution of it was a sight to behold.

If you don’t like musicals, heckling, or sexual content that embraces all orientations, stay away. If you’re an open minded soul who can behave at a play, see this show. It’s worth it.

The Mainline Theatre’s production of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show – Live Montreal Musical is happening from October 19 to 31. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Seniors, students, and members of the Quebec Drama Federation pay less. For more info and tickets go to mainlinetheatre.ca

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