Town Players of Pittsfield invites audiences to come do the Time Warp again
The show led to an iconic 1975 movie, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," which has also enjoyed legion of fans around the world, and more recently, a 2016 adaptation for television.
But the live musical stands alone as a magnet for audiences, and that pull will now find locals making their way to the Boland Theatre at Berkshire Community College to see the Town Players of Pittsfield put their own spin on O'Brien's masterpiece.
At age 44, the show is still going strong, according to its director Matthew T. Teichner, a longtime directing professional who has been immersed in live stages for the better part of his own life, and been with the Players since 2015.
"There's a reason why `The Rocky Horror Show' has endured, and that's because for all the things that have made it appealing and popular, it still touches on themes that are deeply human and that all of us can relate to," Teichner said.
"The Rocky Horror Show" is a satirical nod to the science-fiction and horror B movies of the late 1940s through the early 1970s. It recounts the saga of a newly engaged couple caught in bad weather and coming to the house of a mad transvestite scientist, Dr. Frank N. Furter. There, the inventor unleashes his new project, a Frankenstein-style monster, artificially built, physically perfect muscle man named Rocky Horror.
Hilarity and absurdity ensue, building to a crescendo of audience mayhem with the cast of 22 characters. Choreography is by Alexandra Lindsay.
The silliness is related to the longtime appeal of the now-well developed interaction between the cast and the audience, where fans of the show have developed intricate batteries of responses and reactions that go on throughout the performance, often causing impromptu, unscripted replies back from the cast members — and further craziness.
One character who is charged with keeping the story on target, but also inciting further audience havoc, is the Narrator, played by Drury High School 9th grade biology teacher Jackie DeGiorgis, who has been involved in amateur theater for since her own school days.
DeGiorgis said that Teichner stressed individual character development from the start of the show, and so, as a science teacher, she shaped the Narrator with a decidedly laboratory-like spin.
"I decided to give the Narrator a white lab coat, and a very clinical tone, as well as some surprises I can't give away," DeGiorgis said with a blurt of laughter. "I already wear glasses, so I can ham it up by pushing them down my nose a bit and really peering at the audience in a bit of a condescending way. That should really get their responses going."
DeGiorgis added that her teaching career is "tremendous preparation" for the role, and the entire "Rocky Horror" experience.
"I have ninth graders firing questions at me all day from the oddest, sometimes most unexpected angles," DeGiorgis said. "This has ended up being a lifelong rehearsal. I'm expected to answer promptly, and with something that hopefully makes sense to a 15-year old. That's perfect practice in dealing with the show's audience, because I will be ad libbing at times."
Teichner approved of this kind of approach from his cast, stressing that he wanted all of them to work on making each role, however minor, a lively one.
"I feel musicals are very presentational, and characters tend to not come across as human, but rather as symbols," Teichner said. "It's very important for me to direct a musical as if it was a play that just happened to have music. I don't want to spend less time on character development in a musical than I would in a play because I'm still telling a story, and want fully formed three dimensional human beings on stage."
The music, however, still matters greatly, and a band of six under musical director Jeff Hunt will provide lively accompaniment from the pit.
Hunt, the organist and musical director at St. Mark's Catholic Church in Pittsfield, added that the band might even partake of some madness, too.
"I told my band members the same thing I would tell any audience newcomer to `The Rocky Horror Show,' and that's to expect the unexpected from the audience and the cast," Hunt said. "There are going to be things flying around that theater, so I may have to wear a sombrero. It's a great gig for any musician to be a part of `Rocky Horror,' and to be doing it in that venue."
Indeed, the Players are returning to the Robert Boland Theatre on the campus of Berkshire Community College after a four-year hiatus from the facility. Named for the late professor of theater arts at the college, the stage is one of the largest state-of-the-art performing venues in the region.
"The Boland Theatre is also one of the reasons I wanted to be involved with this show," Hunt said, a shared by both DeGiorgis and Teichner.
In all, the director feels his cast is ready for the onslaught.
"We have brought in groups during the rehearsal to let the cast get a feel for how the audience responses to the show play out," Teichner said with a smile. "But, of course, the real audience will take matters into its own hand.
"This is a great story about the human condition and acceptance, but it's also a lot of fun. Come see us and find out just how much."
Reach award-winning freelance journalist Telly Halkias at firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @TellyHalkias
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