Uncle Hyena (unclehyena) wrote,
Uncle Hyena

Rocky Not-Quite-Horrible

This is WAY more detail than I usually go into, but given the significant percentage of my friends list that, like me, has seen the 1975 movie MANY times, I thought it appropriate.

We watched "The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again" in almost real time last night; we started an hour late, which let us time slice out the commercials. Given the DEEP conceptual flaw at the center of the production, it was actually pretty good. I have now seen four versions of this story (1975 movie, live local theater, filmed London theater, and this) and this one is third best. (The London production was pretty bad.)

The good first:

The cast was generally good. Significantly, most of them (in particular the actors for Janet, Brad, and Columbia) were better singers than the 1975 cast. The staging was occasionally quite clever: Having part of "Dammit, Janet" set over a tombstone labelled "Mary Shelley"; using the "Castle Theater" to unify the Usherette's opening number with the rest of the story; having Rocky rise out of an ice bath labelled as a soda dispenser. They did all three verses of "Superheroes", and Tim Curry-- stroke damaged, heart-breakingly game Tim Curry-- SANG parts of the third verse, which just ripped my heart out.

The bad:

Given the strength of the original score, the music was surprisingly bad. The arrangements for "Sweet Transvestite" and "I'm Going Home" were awful, and they managed to bungle the wedding march.

Reeve Carney was terrible as Riff Raff. He doesn't seem to know how to either smirk or leer, and instead just grins stupidly. And he couldn't handle the music (which is admittedly a brutal part).

Ben Vereen can act and sing, but didn't bother to do either of them in this production as Dr. Scott.

While some of the staging was clever, some of it was BAD: They did not, apparently, have a working elevator, so they did something stupid with a cherry picker for the opening of "Sweet Transvestite". They chose to eliminate Eddie's freezer, and had him enter and exit through a window, which set them up to ALMOST eliminate the later cannibalism joke, thus killing two scenes with one decision. And they eliminated the RKO radio tower, which impaired (but didn't quite cripple) the death scene.

For the most part, they stayed very close to the original script, but what changes they made were generally BAD. Most particularly, the lines in Brad's bedroom scene did NOT exactly mirror those in Janet's bedroom scene, killing another joke. The blocking in the bedroom scenes was AWFUL, which didn't help.

And now we come to the elephant in the room, which is the matter of Laverne Cox. She has a great voice, but her acting was impaired by the bizarre way in which she chose to deliver the lines, using a wildly inconsistent British accent coupled with a theatrical gay lisp. But the real problem with her performance was that she just didn't fit the part.

I will allow, for the sake of argument, that this story might work with a gender switched Frankie, IF Rocky is also gender switched, and Brad and Janet are significantly rewritten. But it is very much a package. The main character arcs are based on Janet's sexual repression, and Brad's latent homophobia. If Frankie is female, and the other characters are not changed, Janet's arc is diluted, and Brad's pretty much ceases to exist.

In 1975, when Tim Curry's disturbingly attractive, significantly androgenous Frankie sang "Sweet Transvestite", he was a man in women's clothing assaulting the sexual orientation of every straight male in the audience. In 2016, when Laverne Cox's legally and visibly female Frankie sings the same song, she is a woman in women's clothing, and who really cares?

Final assessment: Worth watching for historical purposes. Otherwise, just fast forward through everything where Tim Curry is not on the screen, and then watch "Superheroes" from start to finish. THAT is worth watching.

(Dementia adds: It was REALLY solid through "Science Fiction Double Feature", "Dammit, Janet", and "Light in the Darkness", got sort of lost during "The Time Warp", and DIED with "Sweet Transvestite.")

Uncle Hyena
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