Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Let’s do the time warp again

Portland's newest, suitably campy onstage "Rocky Horror" reveals itself as … Hedwig's mom from the tough times

Ask even an enthusiast what actually happens in The Rocky Horror (Picture) Show, and you may get a patchy answer. Ask ’em to sing you the songs, though, and you’ll get an earful!

When Rocky Horror premiered in 1973 as a live musical and then burgeoned into a 1975 feature film, no one involved could’ve possibly anticipated its universal appeal or its inexhaustible stamina. The movie defines “cult classic,” drawing droves of loyal fans to weekly midnight screenings, and Portland’s own Clinton Street Theater now boasts having the longest-consecutive-running show in the world, advertising last weekend’s screening as its 36-year anniversary. Never far from its origins as a stage show, Rocky Horror the movie has spontaneously inspired fans in the theater seats to morph into an ad-hoc ensemble cast, dressing the part, dialoguing with actors, and using props on cue. It’s probably safe to say RHPS levels of crowd participation are unparalleled in modern cinema.

Artslandia-ORAWreviewBut you probably know all this—blah blah, blah—and you want to know, “How is Portland’s currently running live Rocky Horror Show?”

You know, it doesn’t disappoint! Produced by Live On Stage and running at the World Trade Center through Nov. 8, it is as excellent as it has to be to satisfy such passionate fans, and the show further favors devotees with a “participation pack” containing all the necessary props (confetti, glow sticks, rubber gloves, etc) for full engagement.

Rocky Promo 3

Nartan Woods as Frank deserves due credit for pulling off a ferociously glamorous approximation of Tim Curry with a bit more “sister” snap; Matt Brown and Leah Seligman are an appropriately silly and sympathetic Brad and Janet; Eric Little is a regal, menacing Riff Raff; Claire Rigsby a simmering Magenta; Lindsay Schramm an effervescent Columbia. Gary Norman narrates with a crackle of old-timey radio, a wisp of Vincent Price, and a trusty Portland-style PBR tallboy in hand. Gabriel Mikalson as the naive Rocky and Darren Hurley as Eddie are, by comparison, just okey-dokey. On Saturday, Eddie’s stage time felt too brief, Rocky’s pauses too long. Dr. Frank N. Furter’s and Rocky’s spoken lines often got lost; whether the fault lay in sound mixing or diction was hard to decipher.

By the way—meow, scratch—this show’s young ensemble cast of phantoms/Transylvanians explodes with energy and drips with attitude! Doubling as actual ushers at the top of the show, they maintain a mood of sneering sleaze with their every glance and pose. And all are stellar singers and dancers. You can’t look away.

Now back to that question most people are bad at answering: What actually happens in Rocky Horror?

In a benevolent recounting, an uptight couple are treated to some cross-dressing pageantry that awakens their sexual awareness. In a sinister—yet technically literal—read, a) we learn that transsexuals are from another planet b) a psychopathic cult leader imprisons and rapes two virgins, and kills and eats a man. So what, exactly, makes that okay…triumphal, even?


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