Bay Street Theatre’s “The Rocky Horror Show”: #winning

On Sunday evening, there were quite a number of “virgins” at the Bay Street Theatre production of The Rocky Horror Show.

The Sunday show was open to all ages, so no surprise that a large number of the young people were seeing Rocky for the first time. I wonder how many of them would have admitted that if they knew they were going to get called on stage for a few antics before the show?

Of course, there were plenty of “sluts” on hand too, including one particularly amazing guy who sat right beside the stage and seemed to know every traditional audience callback. I’ll bet there were at least half a dozen times he yelled, “Castles don’t have phones, asshole.”

Chris Stanley tackled the role of Frank-N-Furter (that’s the Tim Curry part from the movie), the maestro of the aliens who have mysteriously set up their perverse house in the castle stumbled upon by Brad and Janet on a dark and stormy night. Stockily muscular, Stanley moves with both grace and energy. He’s filling the big shoes of Christopher Blair, who has played Frank in previous BST productions, but Stanley was really strong — and I have a feeling he’ll be even stronger as he feels and fills the character out in front of audiences into the second weekend.

And that was an impression that I had about other aspects of BST’s Rocky. Each night’s mood and energy will be different depending on the audience; there’s a give-and-take that just can’t be mimicked in rehearsals.

On Sunday, Thomas Houston as the narrator had some especially comic moments when he paused or ad libbed in response to audience reactions and distractions.

Director Jeffrey DeVincent made a really interesting and successful choice with the staging: almost all the action takes place on and around the catwalk that extends from the stage. So the audience is basically divided in two by that catwalk, and the design eliminates the problem from other BST productions of views occasionally being blocked by the line of structural columns that bisect the big room.

The only drawback to this arrangement is that the lighting is not optimized for it.

By putting the action in the middle of the audience, however, DeVincent and assistant director JinHi Soucy Rand were able to put musical director Warren Heilman and his ensemble on the stage. That meant the music was dispersed evenly through the space — that had been another challenge of staging musicals in the almost-historic drag showbar.

The new discovery for me at Rocky was Emily Updegraff, who has the perfect voice and look for both the Usherette and Columbia.

Leonard W. Rose and Valerie American Lavelle (real names!) are hysterical as Brad and Janet, and Travis Harold Coles and Ford Fatale get creepier and creepier as Riff Raff and Magenta. Juliet Marie Salazar crossdresses to play both Eddie and Dr. Scott — she was especially good in the latter role.

As Rocky, Reece Thomas is just what he needs to be: hunky, dumb, ripped, and gold-speedo clad.

The four phantoms (Kia Pantaloni, Jack Wagner, Matthew Gunnells, Kevin D. Santana) are especially decadent and entertaining in their black lace stockings and tight tops with exposed but tape-covered nipples.

The strong performances, excellent voices, and inventive staging help overcome the awkward transitions and even dead spots in Richard O’Brien’s bizarre, disjointed musical, which was first staged 40 years ago.

But who cares about any of that unevenness? The songs are awesome, the characters sharply drawn, the gags over-the-top. BST’s production features, at it should, lots of bare skin, exaggerated gestures, and absurdly funny moments.

Given the near-sellout on Sunday, I’d strongly advise buying tickets in advance if you want to go this weekend or for the final show on Halloween. Click here to buy tickets. I had so much fun that I just might try to go back for the midnight show on Halloween night.