Next story: Stagefright
by Anthony Chase
The Rocky Horror Show
Productions of The Rocky Horror Show are as bound by tradition as are D’Oyly Carte productions of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. The audience is so attuned to the proceedings, and so accustomed to joining in with split-second timing, that too much variation throws the whole business out of whack. Innovations are allowed to accommodate the unique personalities of the performers, but only within a limited range of acceptability.
The current production of Rocky Horror at ALT Theatre in the Great Arrow building mostly fills the bill. With direction by Drew McCabe, musical direction and especially fun costuming by Bret Runyon, choreography by Amy Taravella, a lively and amusing set by David Butler, light by Janet Werther and sound by John Shotwell, we trod a comfortably familiar line, and some of the innovations are wonderfully agreeable indeed.
Here is the tale of Brad and Janet, clean-cut kids from the right side of town who find themselves stuck with a flat tire in an unfamiliar neighborhood on a rainy night. In need of a phone, they unwittingly venture into the castle of Frank-N-Furter, a narcissistic scientist from outer space who is, that very night, celebrating the culmination of a fateful experiment. But whereas Dr. Frankenstein brought life to a monster, Frank has made himself a boy toy.
The evening kicks off with Sarah Brown as Magenta, singing her rendition of “Science Fiction Double Feature,” wearing a Bret Runyon vintage usherette costume and taking no prisoners. Miss Brown caught my eye (repeatedly) as a member of the Greek Chorus in the Alt production of Electra for her grace and precision, and here she capitalizes on the chance to step out of the line. Her Magenta is delightfully acerbic, with broad comic scene-chewing that sets the tone for all that is to follow.
Please do not misinterpret—there is a decided air of the amateurish and a willful and entirely appropriate preference for the tacky here, making it impossible to discern what happens intentionally and what happens because that’s the best Alt could manage. There is, for instance, the matter of the miscasting of several roles: Candice Kogut as Janet and John Kreuzer as Brad Majors would never be mistaken for Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue—not in this or any universe; David Butler is all wrong as both the bad-boy greaser Eddie and as erudite and elderly Dr. Everett V. Scott; and while Michael Renna has an adorable face, he is neither musical or muscular as Rocky…and yet, collectively, I found each and every one irresistible, and all the more endearing and entertaining for these daft miscalculations. It’s as if the neighborhood kids opened up a box of costumes, chose their own parts, and devised a wild and far-fetched show, hoping to delight themselves and to unhinge their parents.
Jeffrey Coyle turns out to be a delightful variation on Frank-N-Furter, a role forever to be associated with Tim Curry, who played the role in the film and who is the standard by which all Frank-N-Furters are fated to be judged. Coyle hits the appropriately strident stride and compensates for a theater so intimate that audiences feel rather too shy to respond the way Rocky Horror audiences should, with talking back and dancing in the aisles. Pacing the stage like a predatory cat in high heels, Coyle makes hay of the proceedings and manages punctuate the performance with just enough of his own personality to keep things surprising.
Rocky Horror continues through Halloween. Don’t just show up at the box office; make reservations. Seating is limited!
Do You See What I'm Saying?
Despite an entirely unconventional career, Megan Terry is one of the most important playwrights of her generation. From her home base in Omaha, Nebraska, this prolific writer has forged her way through numerous genres in plays like Approaching Simone, Babes in the Big House, and Viet Rock, asserting a voice that is political, activist, and simultaneously iconoclastic and icon-making.
Ujima Theater Company has assayed her play, Do You See What I’m Saying? before, several years ago. This 1990 work is based on Terry’s own interviews with homeless women. Do not assume, however that she has derived something pessimistic and downbeat from this. While Terry’s take on the proceedings can be harsh, it is never dreary. Yes, her characters live on the fringe and must scrounge for their every need, but Terry finds uplifting affirmation of humanity in their struggles, and even manages a delightfully upbeat ending.
Under the direction of Lorna C. Hill, Ujima offers up a splendid cast with two of Buffalo’s most celebrated actresses, June Duell and Beverly Dove recreating roles they played previously. Michele Ninacs, who was also in the first cast, takes on a different character this time, and to winning effect, using her talents to make an endearing and humorous portrait of a refined Southern belle on the street.
One could never anticipate from the written page just how much comic charm gifted Miss Dove can derive from an oversexed drug addict—you will be impressed, if not outright amazed, by this feat of theatrical magic. Duell, too, navigates her deluded street hustler with a heart of steel with unexpectable charisma.
While the characters I have mentioned are the most vivid, the entire company serves the material well, and Lorna Hill has guided a well-paced, perfectly modulated and insightful production. Do You See What I’m Saying? continues through October 25th at TheatreLoft, 545 Elmwood Ave. (883-0380).
Marc With a "C" - Cabaret Comes to Buffalo
If cabaret has been tried in Buffalo in recent years, I was not aware of it. Kerrykate Abel, a devotee of the form, who has even attended the famed Cabaret Camp in Waterford, Connecticut, to study with the legendary Julie Wilson, Sally Mayes, and other masters of the craft, is producing a new cabaret series at the Buffalo United Artists theater. (I suspect that Miss Abel lights a candle every year on Hildegarde’s birthday—or that she at least knows when it is.)
She’s signed on a lineup of Buffalo’s foremost musical theater/acting talent —a wise strategy for a form that depends not so much on sublime singing as on superior musical interpretation. First up: Marc Sacco, who gives his show the title Marc With a “C”, an homage to Liza (with a “Z”) and a reminder of how to spell his name, opening on October 23. Sacco will be accompanied on the piano (as will everyone in the series) by Chuck Basil, one of Buffalo’s most popular entertainers in his own right.
Sacco describes his show as an evening of songs and stories inspired by experiences in his life and performing career.
An angel-faced tenor, Sacco is frequently cast in supporting roles that allow him to steal shows outright and in leads that dependably impress with the precision of his comedy and the insight of his interpretations. He has earned a number of Artie nominations (and one Artie win) for excellent stage work, both musical and non-musical, and has a gift for delivering comedy and poignancy without forcing either one. And oh yes, he sings well too.
All this bodes well for a satisfying evening of story and song in an intimate cabaret setting.
Sacco’s engagement is limited to five performances: October 23, 24, 30, and 31 at 8pm and Sunday, October 25 at 7pm at the BUA Theatre at 119 Chippewa Street, between Delaware and Elmwood Avenues. Call 886-9239.
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