Cult classic ‘Rocky Horror’ comes to the stage

The Appalachian Musical Theatre Ensemble presents “The Rocky Horror Show” on Homecoming weekend in Rosen Concert Hall, with performances at 9 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Natalie Carpenter

Alexander McCall

The Appalachian Musical Theatre Ensemble presents “The Rocky Horror Show” on Homecoming weekend in Rosen Concert Hall, with performances at 9 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday.  Photo courtesy of Natalie Carpenter
Appalachian Musical Theatre Club’s ensemble will present a regional premiere of the full-stage version of Richard O’Brian’s “Rocky Horror Show” this weekend.

The stage version is not to be confused with the film version of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” that has been shown in Boone for decades.

“It is a loving tribute to science fiction movies and those awful horror B-films of the 1940s, 50s, into the 70s,” said Keith Martin, director and professor in the Department of Theater and Dance.

The original stage version of “The Rocky Horror Show” premiered in the early 1970s and follows the story of an engaged couple as they encounter a mad scientist transvestite, Dr. Frank N. Furter. 

The two soon discover they are not indeed safe as they encounter various other houseguests, including the scientist’s prized creation, a handsome muscle man named Rocky.

The story was adapted to film in 1975, and keeps much of the original plot line and musical numbers, with the addition of a few characters for plot development. The film has since gained notoriety through midnight showings, and its cult following comes with its own culture of audience participation and intricate costumes.

In 2000, for the 25th anniversary of the film, the story was adapted back to the stage for a Broadway revival, mixing elements of the original and the film version, and featuring notable celebrity guest stars throughout its two-year showing. 

The club’s members collectively chose the production from a list of proposed titles at the start of the semester. 

The musical serves as the first fully costumed and choreographed production the club has held thus far. The club’s previous productions of in-concert versions of “RENT” and “Godspell” were put on with limitations on costuming and choreography.

“You have to crawl before you can walk,” Martin said. 

Each show the group puts on becomes more and more intricate because of increased funding and awareness garnered from the last. 

“We don’t have yet the full sets and props that you would expect because we can only get in the space the day of the performance, but every word is spoken, every note is sung – it’s the entire show,” Martin said.

The club is rapidly gaining members and support for future shows. The auditions for this production drew 70 participants,  and all of them later joined the club.

“Every show that we do adds another element until we get to a full show,” said senior theater major Luke Schaffer, who plays the lead role of Dr. Frank N. Furter. “It keeps getting progressively more intense, so the rehearsals have been a lot more intense.”

While the ensemble includes some actors from last year’s productions, of the all-student cast of 16, nine are making their debut performance with the club. Seven of those are freshmen and some are in leading roles.

“Talent doesn’t have a first, second, third year student designation,” Martin said. “We were blown away.”

He noted that students of all majors came to auditions, some of which were sporting full drag. 

As opposed to the conventional cult-ritual of “shadow casting” of the movie, where live actors mimic the film as its projected behind them, this version is made for the stage.

“I’m not going to be Tim Curry,” Schaffer said. “We’re going to do our own thing, but we’re going to do it well.”

Senior theater arts major Kellie Letner plays the part of Columbia and has choreographed the show. 

“I’m definitely changing it up from the movie,” Letner said. “It’s so different when you have a camera and you can put specific angles and specific parts of dances on camera.”

The show is expected to sell out, and Martin anticipates the name-recognition should draw in die-hard fans of all generations who might be in town for homecoming.

“We told the actors they better be off book really well, because if they even hesitate there will people in the audience who will say your line for you,” Martin said.

“The Rocky Horror Show” will be performed in Rosen Concert Hall at 9 p.m. Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickers are $8 and can be purchased at in Plemmons Student Union.

STORY: LOVEY COOPER, Senior A&E Reporter
Photo courtesy of Natalie Carpenter