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December 05, 2016
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arts & leisure

Theatre Beat: Forestburgh's 'Rocky Horror Show' is out of this world

When British horror/comedy/musical 'The Rocky Horror Show' debuted in 1973, London audiences immediately declared it a smash, and its popularity skyrocketed accordingly. Crossing the pond to Los Angeles in 1974, the film adaptation quickly began production and an instant cult following was born. Today, fans worldwide have made the movie version the longest-running release in cinematic history. Having caught a midnight screening of the film in the mid-seventies, I was curious to see how the show began (on stage) and wondered aloud if audiences here in the Upper Delaware valley would embrace it, as the the curtain went up at the Forestburgh Playhouse (FBP)(www.FBplayhouse.org) this week.

Through the music, book and lyrics written by Richard O'Brien, the story centers on mad scientist/transvestite Frank 'n Furter and the inhabitants of a spooky castle in the middle of nowhere. As the plot unfolds, stranded lovers Brad and Janet (Gregory Bourke and Joyah Spangler) become embroiled in the dark, twisted (and hilarious) going-on around them, sending the couple spinning through a "Time Warp" that careens out of control, thoroughly engaging the audience throughout, with rapid fire musical numbers and dialogue that elicited spontaneous applause and standing ovations, even before the final curtain fell.

Both Bourke and Spangler have beautiful, strong voices and a firm grasp on the material, which allows them to let loose and entertain with reckless abandonment in numbers "Dammit Janet" and "Over at the Frankenstein Place" among others. Spot-on interpretations of their characters propel the story and they are met note for note by fellow actors Katie Sarno and Kyle VanZandt, who (as ghoulish servants Magenta and Riff Raff) also have wonderful vocal abilities and great comic timing. Popular local radio host Pail Ciliberto, (www.thunder102.com) narrates the zany tale from the side of the stage and the audience howled every time he interjected, as his facial expressions and observations amused.

Michael Graceffa (a stunning creation "Rocky," born of Frank 'n Furter's twisted mind) and Zachary Bencal (as early experiment Eddie) were perfectly cast and each (especially Graceffa) had moments to shine in numbers "Hot Patootie-Bless my Soul" and "Floorshow/Rose Tint my World." Kevin Confoy's cameo as UFO hunter Dr. Scott was amusing and his antics on stage were met with hoots and howls as director Larry Smiglewski and choreographer Dann Dunn's efforts enhanced the show under their creative visualization.

The centerpiece around which all of the action takes place...and the unabashed star of "Rocky Horror"-is the madman himself, as portrayed by consummate performer Matthew James Gray. Having already racked up a long list of impressive credits, Gray's performance is bold, energetic, hysterical and unique. As Frank 'n Furter, the actor must sing, dance and emote (in heels!) and manages to all three magnificently in a tour de force performance that the crowd wildly appreciated, as he strutted across the stage, belting out show-stopping numbers "Sweet Transvetite," "I Can Make You a Man" and a heart wrenching rendition of "I'm Going Home." Rounding out the cast is a troupe of funny and frightening characters, constantly on stage supporting the leads and their commitment to the play is equally impressive, helping to create theatre magic along with a cool set and imaginative costume design (by Darcy Engle and Ashleigh Poteat), lit creatively by designer Michael Bert.

Musical director Kevin Lawson had the great good fortune to have this incredibly talented cast under his wing and now-famous songs like "The Time Warp" and "Science Fiction/Double Feature" were all vividly presented with stylish flair. Without question, "Rocky Horror" is a hit, right here in Forestburgh, and it wouldn't surprise me if this glittering production didn't impel a resurgence of late night screenings somewhere nearby. Without reservations, one might miss out on a rare opportunity to catch this tremendous show and that would be a crime. In my estimation, the entire cast is super heroes, and hopefully, there are tickets available. I'm already planning to see it again before the show leaves Forestburgh and hurtles out of our galaxy altogether. For more information on how you can observe yet another "Miracle in the Forest, visit the website or call (845/794-1194) to take a trip through time and space with friends.