For nearly 30 years, Richard O'Brien's sexy spaceman saga, The Rocky Horror Show, has been titillating audiences with a blend of camp carousing, science fiction sentimentality and raunchy rock anthems.
And now it has crash-landed in Augusta.
Tonight the Augusta Theatre Company opens its production of The Rocky Horror Show, the play that inspired the cult movie phenomenon The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Like the movie, The Rocky Horror Show tells the story of uber-square Brad Majors and his naive fiancee, Janet Weiss, who find themselves the somewhat unwilling guests of one Dr. Frank-n-Furter, an alien mad scientist with a penchant for women's underwear.
At this point things get a little strange.
Director James Worth made a concerted effort to distance the production from the movie. The portrayals are markedly different, and the set and costumes have updated looks. Mr. Worth, who requested that his cast not watch or even mention the film, said that Rocky Horror, like any play, is open to interpretation.
"There is a skeleton that Richard O'Brien has given us," Mr. Worth said. "But then it's like doing any other play, like doing Chekhov or Shakespeare. You have to bring the things you want to it."
Among the things Mr. Worth wanted to bring to the play were a look with more leather and latex than lace and lingerie and pop culture barbs aimed at Elvis and a little girl from Kansas.
"We're even going as far as telling people who are interested that this won't be anything like the movie," said Robert Seawell, the production's Frank-n-Furter and a long-time Rocky Horror aficionado. "For instance, the movie has 16 songs, the play 20. There are scenes in the play that didn't make it into the movie. Really, it's entirely different, and I think people will appreciate this more. They'll see how Rocky was meant to be, before it went Hollywood."
Rocky Horror is peppered with sexual situations, suggestive language and an intentionally decadent spirit. Mr. Worth said he was careful to ensure from the production's beginning that the cast would be comfortable with that and the fact that their costumes might be little more than garter belts and bikini briefs.
"It started right at the audition process," he said. "I wanted them prepared. So I told them, from the beginning, that this was going to be a raunchy production of this show and, if they were uncomfortable with that, they shouldn't go through the audition process."
Because the cast does spend the majority of the play in various stages of undress, Robin Burks, who plays Janet Weiss, said some additional preparation was required.
"I spent three months working out," she said with a laugh. "I think everyone has. But the great thing about this cast has been that nobody has seemed real inhibited. We've become very comfortable around each other. And to do this, you really have to be."
For many, the allure of Rocky Horror, both on stage and film, lies in the audience-participation rituals that have grown up around it. When it rains, audience members have been known to open fire with water pistols. During a wedding sequence, rice is sometimes thrown, and during various scenes lines are shouted toward the stage or screen. Mr. Worth said that he wants people to participate actively in the production but to remember that theater has to be different from the cinema.
"I'm making it very clear to the audience that if they get out of hand, it can be dangerous to the actors," he said. "We want the audience participation, but it must, must remain in the audience. It cannot ever spill onto the stage. This is not like going to see the film, where people can go absolutely mad. This is theater. It's a different animal."
Although some of the material in the play might not be suitable for younger audiences, Mr. Worth said Rocky Horror is in no way pornographic.
"Really, it's no more raunchy than what people see on soap operas at lunchtime or on television at night," he said. "It's a good show, and even though it deals with some pretty explicit material the good guys do win in the end. So I guess, in a way, it could be considered a highly moralistic tale."
Keith Manasco, who plays Brad Majors, said that Rocky Horror merely uses sex as a story-telling device.
"This is about freedom," he said, "freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom to be who you are and what you want to be. And I hope because people see this, a demand will develop, not just for Rocky Horror, but for anything different."
WHAT: The Rocky Horror Show, presented by the Augusta Theatre Company
WHEN: 7:30 tonight, Thursday night and Nov. 2, 8 and 9; 8 p.m. Saturday and Nov. 3 and 10; midnight Saturday and Nov. 3; and 3 p.m. Sunday and Nov. 10
WHERE: Bon Air Apartments Ballroom, 2101 Walton Way
ADMISSION: $18 adults, $12 students and senior citizens and $10 matineesPhone: 481-9040
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.