THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW by Richard O’Brien (Hart House Theatre, 7 Hart House Circle). Runs to October 12. $15-$28. See listing. Rating: NNN
The Rocky Horror Show may have received a big, slick production last year at Stratford, but this lower-budget one at Hart House Theatre captures the subversive spirit of the piece with imagination and energy.
Under director Jennifer Walls, the design has a lo-fi look – think that sci-fi challenge from RuPaul’s Drag Race. And Walls has added performers called Phantoms, who, in a nice bit of meta-theatricality, seem to emerge from the audience and then take part in the show, physicalizing props or acting as a sort of campy chorus.
Standout scenes include a hilarious bit of shadow puppetry to depict Frank ‘N’ Furter’s (Chris Tsujiuchi) sexual liaisons with separated newlyweds Janet (Katie Miller) and Brad (William Mackenzie). Cabaret star and frequent musical director Tsujiuchi makes an intriguing-looking lead character, and his soulful, R&B chops enliven some numbers, but he has diction and projection issues, and his dry delivery feels all wrong for the character.
Fortunately, the actors around him – Miller, Mackenzie, Rachel Hart’s Magenta/Usherette, Ian Backstrom’s Riff Raff and especially Heidi Michelle Thomas as the narrator – generate a lot more energy.
The show enforces a no-throwing policy, but be prepared for lots of vocal audience participation. It’s always been part of the fun of Rocky Horror, although frankly, shouting “slut” after Janet feels wrong in 2019, even if it’s just being done ironically.