Thirty-eight years after it first hit the stage in London, The Rocky Horror Show remains a textbook example of style over substance. We don’t really care about straight arrows Brad and Janet and why they’re unwittingly plunged into a wacked-out world of sex-obsessed alien transvestites. No, Brit actor/writer Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show is a (mostly) visual and (kind of) aural spectacle of leather and mascara counterculture, a camp, B-movie middle finger to traditional theater and traditional gender.
The Old Globe’s Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show is very much in that spirit. Its rousing rebelliousness, garters and corsets, and multimedia special effects excusably overpower the story. Throw in some kinetic choreography, a crack band and a couple of crowd-pleasing performances (in particular Matt McGrath’s strutting Frank ‘N’ Furter), and both Rocky cultists and horrified tourists are bound to leave titillatingly entertained.
The in-theater sound quality isn’t always up to the fast-paced vocalizing, and years of Rocky Horror assimilation into our pop culture minimizes the show’s shock value. But this production, smartly directed by James Vasquez, is too likable to dismiss. Then there’s the audience around you: You might have a cross-dresser seated in your row, or maybe just a fan bearing a glow stick who knows how to dance “The Time Warp.”
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat