THROWBACK THURSDAY: Can’t believe we are only halfway through October. You know what that means? Halloween is right around the corner. Over the years. Broadway has had an unforgettable ongoing legacy of Spooky Themed musicals that is still popular with Musical Theater fans today. One of them is the legendary and iconic….. The Rocky Horror Show!!!
For those who may not know, it’s considered as the ultimate love letter to Science Fiction and Horror films from the 1930’s-1960’s. Created by Richard O’Brien, it tells the classic tale of a newly engaged couple who gets caught in storm and find themselves in the home of a mad transvestite scientist. Notable songs include DOUBLE FEATURE, DAMNIT JANET, HOT PATOOTEE, and of course the showstopping TIME WARP.
THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW was originally conceived by Richard O’Brien in the 1970’s. He was a huge lover of Science Fiction and Horror Films since he was a young boy. At the time, he was an out-of-work actor. However to keep him busy during the Winter evenings, he started developing the show. Originally, the musical was set against the backdrop of the glam era that had manifested itself throughout British pop culture during that time. But also during that time was the rise of transvestism.
While still developing the show, O’Brien began to share pieces of it with various Theater creators. However, it won the attention of Australian director Jim Sharman (best known for directing the original Australian premieres of Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar) who planned to develop it in London at the small experimental space Upstairs at the Royal Court Theatre. From there, O’Brien, Sharman, and a whole creative team came together to develop the piece.
When the show was first being developed, it was given a temporary working titled called THEY CAME FROM DENTON HIGH. However, it was quickly switched back to ROCKY HORROR.
In 1973, THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW premiered at the Royal Court’s 63-seat Theatre Upstairs for a month long run. With its success there, the show immediately transferred to the King’s Road Theatre and later the Comedy Theatre (now the Harold Pinter Theatre) where it ran for an incredible 7 years. Under the direction of Jim Sharman, the cast was led by….
Tim Curry as “Dr. Frank-N-Furter”,
Christopher Malcolm as “Brad Majors”,
Julie Covington as “Janet Weiss”,
Richard O’Brien as “Riff-Raff”,
Patricia Quinn in the dual roles “Magenta” & “The Usherette”,
Nell Campbell as “Columbia”,
Paddy O’Hagan in the dual roles of “Eddie” and “Dr. Scott”,
Rayner Bourton as “Rocky”,
Jonathan Adams as “The Criminologist” / “The Narrator”.
The original London premiere received a Evening Standard Award for BEST MUSICAL that same year of 1973.
Following the success of the show’s world premiere in London, ROCKY HORROR began to make its way Internationally. It made its debut here in the United States in 1975 playing the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles, California for a triumphant month long run. Immediately afterwards, THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW made its debut in our New York backyard on Broadway. However, when it got there, it turned out to be a huge flop. It played the Belasco Theatre for only 4 previews and 45 regular performances. Under the direction of Jim Sharman, the cast was led by…
Tim Curry reprising the role of “Dr. Frank-N-Furter”,
Bill Miller as “Brad Majors”,
Abigale Haness as “Janet Weiss”,
Richard O’Brien reprising the role of “Riff-Raff”,
Jamie Donnelly in the dual roles “Magenta” & “The Usherette”,
Boni Enten as “Columbia”,
Rock star Meat Loaf in the dual roles of “Eddie” and “Dr. Scott”,
Kim Milford as “Rocky”,
Graham Jarvis (later William Newman) as “The Criminologist” / “The Narrator”.
Despite flopping, the show would go on to get several Theater nominations including a Tony Award for BEST LIGHTING DESIGN. It also received 3 Drama Desk nomination for UNIQUE THEATRICAL EXPERIENCE, OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL (for Tim Curry) and OUTSTANDING FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL (for Boni Enten).
With its life after the original London and Broadway runs, THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW went on to hilariously spook audiences around the world including Australia, San Francisco, Europe, Asia, several UK Touring companies, a return to London, and more.
The show would eventually find its way back here to our Broadway backyard in 2000 with an acclaimed revival that ran longer vs. the original production. This revival played the Circle in the Square Theatre for 30 previews and 437 performances. This production was very intimate and the action taking place all around you. It also had its share of celebrity stunt casting for the roles. Under the direction of Tony winner Christopher Ashley, this cast was led by….
Tom Hewitt (later Terrence Mann) as “Dr. Frank-N-Furter”,
Alice Ripley (later Kristen Lee Kelly) as “Janet Weiss”,
Daphne Rubin-Vega in the dual roles “Magenta” & “The Usherette”,
Lea DeLaria (later Jason Wooten) in the dual roles of “Eddie” and “Dr. Scott”,
Sebastian LaCause (later Jonathan Sharp) as “Rocky”,
Dick Cavett (later Cindy Adams and even Penn & Teller) as “The Criminologist” / “The Narrator”.
This revival was nominated for 4 Tony Awards in 2001 including BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL but lost all the categories. It also got 5 Drama Desk Award nominations that year including OUTSTANDING REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL. Also lost. It also received a special Theatre World Award for Raul Esparza.
The stage version of ROCKY HORROR is still popular today being performed in schools, community, and regional theaters everywhere.
Along with its success on stage, ROCKY HORRO earned a huge cult following with its success on screen. The original movie was released in 1975 from 20th Century Fox. The offer for the movie was given even before the show went to Broadway during its LA engagement. Under the direction of Jim Sharman (who directed the original stage version), the cast featured a mix of original cast members from its London staging and some newbies. That included….
Tim Curry reprising his iconic role as “Dr. Frank-N-Furter”,
Barry Bostwick as “Brad Majors”,
Susan Sarandon as “Janet Weiss”,
Richard O’Brien reprising his notable role as “Riff-Raff”,
Patricia Quinn reprising her role as “Magenta” & “The Usherette” (of course now in the movie is known as “The Lips”),
Nell Campbell reprising her performance as “Columbia”,
Meat Loaf reprising his Broadway role of “Eddie”,
Jonathan Adams this time playing “Dr. Scott”,
Peter hinwood (with Trevor White’s singing voice) as “Rocky”,
Charles Gray as “The Criminologist” / “The Narrator”.
When the movie was originally released, it flopped. However, the audiences were still packing the Theaters every night. There would also be a share of repeats who would come to the movie again and again which started ROCKY HORROR’s most legendary tradition we know today….. THE MIDNIGHT SCREENINGS. For those who may not know, those screenings are truly an extravaganza known for some crazy wild madness that goes on in the Movie Theater including….
A Shadow Cast – Fans reenacting the entire movie in front of the screen,
Yelling out replies back at the movie on the screen – (Example: “Brad Majors” being called an A**hole and “Janet Weiss” being called a “slut”.
The props – Audience using random items during key moments including Rice being thrown in the opening wedding scene, newspapers over the head with water guns firing, and more,
It also played a huge impact for the LGBTQ+ community.
The Midnight Screening traditions still happen today.
Most recently, ROCKY HORROR was re-made on screen as a TV movie for FOX. This version was given more of a modern updated version of the musical. Under the direction of Kenny Ortega, the cast was led by….
Laverne Cox as “Dr. Frank-N-Furter”,
Ryan McCartan as “Brad Majors”,
Victoria Justice as “Janet Weiss”,
Reeve Carney as “Riff-Raff”,
Christina Milian as “Magenta”,
Ivy Levan as “The Usherette”,
Annaleigh Ashford as “Columbia”,
Adam Lambert as “Eddie”,
Ben Vereen as “Dr. Scott”,
Staz Nair as “Rocky”,
Tim Curry this time as “The Criminologist” / “The Narrator”.
The FOX TV movie received mixed to negative reviews but earned critical praise for Laverne Cox performance.
ROCKY HORROR is still a thrilling high energy out of this world experience like no other.
Check out footage below of the musical’s most recent 2000 Broadway revival!!!
Any ROCKY HORROR fans out there?!!!