Sweet transvestite! Ray of Light rocks Rocky Horror

Rocky Horror 1
D’Arcy Drollinger as Frank-n-Furter in the Ray of Light Theatre production of The Rocky Horror Show at the Victoria Theatre. Photo by Erik Scanlon

Just in time for Halloween, Ray of Light Theatre invites us to come up to the lab and see what’s on the slab. Any prospect of a live Rocky Horror Show makes us shiver with antici….SAY IT!…………pation. And here’s the good news: this Rocky is a rollicking ride through one of the most beloved cult musicals of all time.

Jason Hoover, Ray of Light’s artistic director, is at the helm of this full-scale production, which Ray of Light last produced in 2008 when Hoover played Brad Majors, one half of the imperiled couple trapped in a remote and mysterious castle on a sultry, stormy night. With a game cast and some terrific singers, Hoover delivers a high-energy, high-camp Horror that will satisfy even diehard fans of the show and its more popular movie version.

At the center of the action, in the towering heels and fishnetted legs that go on for days, is D’Arcy Drollinger as Dr. Frank-n-Furter, the sweet transvestite from transexual Transylvania. Drollinger looks and sounds great, and boy, does he know how to command a stage and work an audience. He’s especially funny at the top of Act 2 when, in shadow, he seduces Brad (Ryan Cowles) and Janet (Chelsea Holifield) individually, corrupting each in the process.

Cowles and Holifield make for an appealingly nerdy couple learning to swim in the warm waters of the sins of the flesh, and on the other end of their spectrum are Frank’s minions, Riff Raff (Paul Hovannes), Magenta (Tielle Baker) and Columbia (Mary Kalita), who lead a rousing “Time Warp.” Hovannes has a spectacular voice, which he puts to good use in a powerhouse “Over at the Frankenstein Place.”

Choreographer Bobby Bryce makes the bustier-clad chorus of phantoms work hard, but he gets great results. There’s energy to spare here, and with his sassy moves, even secondary numbers like “Once in a While” come alive.

Steve Hess has some fun in the dual role of narrator and Dr. Scott, though at Wednesday’s opening night performance, he seemed a trifle thrown by the very active audience participation component involving a select few failing to miss an opportunity to throw up classic and newly fashioned retorts to the dialogue on stage. (My favorite audience jab of the night came at the beginning of Janet’s “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me” with the audience line “Tell us about the Giants” preceded her lyric “Couldn’t win.”) This is Rocky Horror, after all, the world’s most famous interactive experience, and though this production forbids the throwing of anything (rice, toast, toilet paper), there’s no ban on tossing off comments (“Asshole!” for every time Brad’s name is spoken, “Slut!” for Janet’s).

Some audience members seemed to love the audience interaction, others were mildly annoyed. But you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do, and for some, that means being part of the show. And honestly, this is such a fun, lively production, who wouldn’t want to be part of it? The gothic set by Kelly Tighe is especially inviting – a grand, sweeping staircase takes up most of the rear of the stage, with cascading red drapes and dripping white candles.

Also adding some pizzazz to the cast are Alex Rodriguez as the barely dressed Rocky who also happens to be a snazzy dancer and Madeleine Pla as the usherette who starts the show with “Science Fiction/Double Feature” and then later as bad boy Eddie.

Just as A Christmas Carol has become the winter holiday perennial, Ray of Light makes a strong case for the annual revival of The Rocky Horror Show, especially with Drollinger as the king and queen of it all.

Ray of Light’s The Rocky Horror Show continues through Nov. 7 at the Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., San Francisco. Tickets are $25-$36. Visit www.rayoflighttheatre.com.

`Rocky Horror’ time warps again, Living Word lives, Mickey skates

It’s a Bay Area autumn weekend. The weather is gorgeous and you should be out in the world enjoying various entertainments. And entertainments are never more varied than they are in the Bay Area.


Just in time for revving up Halloween spirits, Ray of Light Theatre opens The Rocky Horror Show tonight (Friday, Oct. 17) at the Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., San Francisco. The five-week run continues through Nov. 15.

Jef Valentine plays Dr. Frank ‘n Furter, the man making a man (Scott Gessford) on the slab in the lab. The lovebirds from Denton, Brad and Janet, are played by Jason Hoover and Rebecca Pingree respectively. Frank’s team of Columbia, Riff Raff and Magenta are played by Sarah Kathleen Farrell, Manny Caneri and Jessica Coker.

Cate Chaplin directs and choreographs this time-warping, gender-bending, rocking and rolling musical.

Tickets are $15-$35. Visit www.rockysf.com for information.


The Living Word, the resident theater company of Youth Speaks, launches the seventh annual Living Word Festival today in San Francisco and Oakland.

The 10-day festival is curated by Marc Bamuthi Joseph and features commissioned work, live music , workshops, lectures, literary panels and educational sessions.

The centerpiece of the festival is the premiere of War Peace: The One Drop Rule, a youth-driven hip-hop theater piece that imagines the Bay Area as a potential war zone in a time of protracted drought. Joseph directs the piece, which is written and performed by Chinaka Hodge, Rafael Casal, Daveed Diggs and Nico Cary. The piece features a score by SF Jazz Youth All-Stars, and Emmy-winning choreographer and tapper Jason Samuels-Smith choreographs. The show runs Oct. 23 and 24 at Theater Artaud, 450 Florida St., San Francisco.

Today’s kick-off events include a free lunchtime concert at Yerba Buena Gardens (760 Howard St.) featuring Goapele and Kev Choice Ensemble at 12:30 p.m. Also today at the Oakland Museum (1000 Oak St.) is a literary panel featuring Adam Mansbach and Jeff Chang and Urban Word NYC reading from new work and having a conversation on the topic of “race is fiction.” The event is at 7 p.m.

There are many other events. For a full schedule visit www.youthspeaks.org.


And now for something completely different: this will neither save the world nor will it engage your mind. But it could be an awful lot of fun (especially for the younger audience members). The latest Disney on Ice production, 100 Years of Magic, continues at the Oakland Oracle Arena through Saturday, Oct. 18.

More than 60 Disney characters from 18 movies mingle on the ice, which means Mickey and Minnie will be doing Hamill camels with Buzz Lightyear, Nemo and those ever-popular Disney princesses. Tickets are $16-$65. Call 415-421-8497 or visit www.ticketmaster.com for info. When the Disney spectacular leaves Oakland, it heads to the HP Pavilion in San Jose from Oct. 22-26.

`Mamma Mia!’ and other movie musical mistakes

I know some people who have just flipped over the movie version of Mamma Mia! now plaguing movie theaters. I am not among them.

Having seen the stage version several times, I knew just what I was in for. I enjoyed the show on stage, especially the first time, when the show made its U.S. premiere in San Francisco. I adore the music of ABBA and though the stage version was campy in the right ways, stupid in the right ways and smart in the way it was campy and stupid.

I also adore Meryl Streep when she sings, as she does so brilliantly in Ironweed, Postcards from the Edge, Death Becomes Her and A Prairie Home Companion. I was, however, unprepared for just how ineptly made the movie version of Mamma Mia! was. Director Phyllida Lloyd, who also directed the stage version, had no idea what she was doing, and she and screenwriter Catherine Johnson (who also penned the show) had absolutely no new ideas about turning a stage show into a movie. They even use obvious theatrical lighting for several of the numbers…and all of this is happening on a real Greek island (a Greek island, I might add, that often looks like a soundstage, even when it isn’t). Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Early on I was annoyed by how Lloyd hardly ever let a scene just transpire. She didn’t let actors talk or even complete a sentence without the camera jumping or the awkward of dubbing of lines attempting to smooth over a rough edit. She makes Streep come across strident and ridiculous (and MUCH too old – at nearly 60, Streep looks great, but when we’re spending so much talking about her wild summer 20 years ago when she got pregnant by one of three possible boyfriends, we have to think: What’s wrong with this 40-year-old woman who can’t seem to get her life together?). And she wastes the abundant talents of Julie Walters, sidelined in one of the “best friend” roles. Oddly, Christine Baranski, another of the best friends, gets the movies best number, “Does Your Mother Know,” because the number is contained, and we’re able to get a real sense of Baranski’s performance. This is unlike Walters’ big number, “Take a Chance on Me,” which ends up scrambling across rooftops and making Walters dangle from a roof like a damsel in distress. Horrible.

The closing credits, with the full cast decked in ’70s ABBA finery, could have been fun, but in my bad mood, cultivated by every frame of the movie, I wanted to throw Pet Rocks and burning bras at the screen.

I will say I’m happy that Mamma Mia! is making money because I want the movie musical to continue, despite this creative setback.

But from what I’ve heard, we’re heading into risky territory with upcoming cinematic musical projects.

First, they want to make a sequel to the movie musical Hairspray. A sequel. Never a good idea. The entire creative team from the movie musical (including director/choreographer Adam Shankman and composers Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman) will be on board. Shankman told Variety: “I never thought of musicals as franchises, but it certainly worked with High School Musical, and the idea of working with that cast again, and creating new material and music, is a dream come true. John (Waters) has such an original and extraordinary voice; we all can’t wait to see what he has come up with.”

God only knows what they’ll come up with, but my feeling is they should leave well enough alone.

And here’s another unnecessary project: It’s time to do the “Time Warp” again. MTV is going to remake The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Yes, the 1975 movie that became a midnight cult classic and inspired more men to wear makeup and fishnets than any other film, is going to be made for TV. Maybe in time for Halloween and maybe with some of the music from the stage show that didn’t make it into the movie.

Are there no original ideas left in the world of movie musicals? What’s next, a remake of My Fair Lady? Oh, wait! Yes! And Emma Thompson has been tapped to write the screenplay with Keira Knightley as Eliza Doolittle.

Originality sure ain’t what it used to be. I’m scared that the movie musical I’m most looking forward to – based on one moment in the preview that takes place on the basketball court and in the bleachers – is High School Musical 3.

Just for kicks, let’s actually do “The Time Warp” again.