The Rocky Horror Show Electrifies the Stage
by Jamie Borenstein-Laurie
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is as synonymous with October as pumpkin spice lattes and apple picking, only about a hundred times less wholesome. This 1975 cult classic film about the sexual awakening of newly engaged virgins at the hands of a transvestite mad scientist has been thrilling its passionate fan base for decades, and Montreal certainly adds its own crazy contribution to the Rocky frenzy.
The film originated with a stage play called The Rocky Horror Show, a creation of consistent star Richard O’Brien, which premiered in London in 1973. After an acclaimed run in a 63-seat theatre, the show transferred to a larger space before being adapted into a feature film. A bomb upon its initial release, the film later developed a cult following among young people who came time and time again to midnight showings. A certain culture developed around the film, with audiences shouting callbacks prompted by the campy dialogue and throwing various props in the air.
Montreal’s Mainline Theatre, an intimate venue located on St. Laurent, was the home of The Rocky Horror Show for a limited but successful run during the Halloween season.
The venue is extremely small, with a bare stage and tiered seats on three sides. But the lack of set totally allowed for the insanely talented actors to create the kitschy, flamboyant world of Rocky through their performances.
Actors Trevor Barrette and Kendall Savage were wonderful in the initially prudish roles of Brad and Janet, and their trajectory toward a fishnet and corset filled finale was hilarious to watch.
Likewise, the show’s supporting kooky characters were rounded out by a cast that clearly had the essence of Rocky coursing through their veins.
But if this show was a car, and Jesus was needed to take the wheel, then Jesus came in the form of Stephanie McKenna. The show truly belonged to the electric actress who fully embodied the powerhouse role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a hypersexual transvestite from the distant planet Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania. She totally owned the role, and delivered each note of every song with the power and sass the character demands.
While audience members were discouraged from using the props found at midnight showings—such as Montreal’s Rocky Horror Picture Show Halloween Ball—callbacks were as much a part of the experience as the scripted dialogue. The cast took the shouted commentary from the audience in perfect stride and often improvised responses that left everyone in stitches; naturally, a few jokes were thrown in at defeated Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s expense.
To those who missed out on this spectacular production, I wish you could dance the Time Warp and head back a week or two—but I suppose keeping your fingers crossed that this wowing production makes a return next Halloween will have to do instead.