Live Rocky Horror returns to Montclair after plenty of antici … pation
By DIEGO JESUS BARTESAGHI MENA
There was something fitting about live performances of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” returning to Montclair on Saturday, Oct. 30. After all — it was Mischief Night, and if any production screams “mischief,” it’s “Rocky Horror.”
The strange journey (“Rocky Horror” is always a strange journey) took place at the newly renovated Clairidge Cinemas, as part of the 10th Annual Montclair Film Festival.
It was the intersection of several returns. The Clairidge itself had been shut since the start of the pandemic, when it closed under Bow Tie Cinemas’ ownership during lockdowns and never came back; now, it’s newly operated by Montclair Film, having played a key role in this year’s festival and opening for other films Nov. 5. The festival saw in-person screenings return after they were largely put on hold for 2020’s event.
And Frank N. Furter, Magenta, Brad, Janet and all the rest were back in Montclair for the first time since the Home of Happiness troupe’s production left the Bellevue Theatre in 2017 after 14 years. The new production is by The Ordinary Kids, which formed in the pandemic. The group plans monthly shows at the Clairidge, with various cast members popping in and out or changing roles for various productions.
The first of those was well-received by the dozens of longtime, hardcore fans, as well as ones new to the experience of a live “Rocky Horror” show.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to a good time,” John Muller, a “Rocky Horror” fan from Clifton, said before the show got underway. He used to go to performances by a troupe in New Brunswick.
Dressed up as a Transylvanian, with a face mask covered in the movie’s iconic red lips, Muller said he is happy to be back to in-person screenings.
“It’s been rough since COVID, but now everybody’s coming back out again, ready to have a party and have a good time,” Muller said.
Masks were required at all times inside the theater, except when eating or drinking. Vaccination cards were also required and checked by volunteers at the entrance. (Mutilation and murder are one thing, but carelessness in a pandemic would be a whole other.)
If you’ve never seen “Rocky Horror” live (which, in “Rocky” parlance, makes you a “virgin”), it’s an experience unlike any other. As the 1975 cult classic musical film plays on screen, full of sexually charged sci-fi and camp, in-person performers act it out. The audience joins in the fun, shouting at the screen, waving props and helping make each performance a mix of well-worn tradition and unique energy.
Mimi Spiro has seen the movie several times in Milwaukee, where she is originally from. She came with a group of friends who hadn’t seen the show.
“I expect people who haven’t seen it before to get a very big kick out of how ridiculous and fun and silly and irreverent it is,” Spiro said.
Jessica Henry, a resident from Montclair who came with Spiro, said she was excited for lots of singing and dancing.
Members of The Ordinary Kids — in costume, and with face masks of their own — came to greet the audience, lined up in the lobby waiting for the show.
“We are maybe a little bit nervous but I think we’re all very excited because it’s our first real show. And it’s our first show as a new cast,” said Kevin, who plays the part of Eddie and Dr. Scott. Many cast members were credited by first names and pseudonyms (at least, we think Randi Riot, who plays Magenta, Janet and Trixie, isn’t the name that appears on her birth certificate).
Kelster, who plays Columbia, said the audience shouldn’t have any expectations because “every show can be a little bit different. A lot of it is based on the crowds. So, it’s all crowd participation,” she said.
Prop bags, made by The Ordinary Kids, were available for purchase, filled with eight props to use during the show. The program for the show included instructions on how to use them during the story.
For example: Audience members got out their glowsticks when Janet Weiss (played by Susan Sarandon on screen) sang “There’s a light” in “Over at the Frankenstein Place.” When Dr. Frank N. Furter, the main antagonist played by Tim Curry in the film, made a toast “to absent friends,” the audience threw cardboard pieces with “TOAST” written in black marker at the screen.
Audience members were also given a how-to guide for the iconic “Time Warp.” Everyone knew when to get up, when to jump to the left, when to take a step to the right.
Montclair Film executive director Tom Hall thanked the audience for attending the return of “Rocky Horror.”
“You guys made the 10th anniversary of the Montclair Film Festival special, and thank you for supporting us,” Hall said. “Without your support, the festival wouldn’t have been possible.”
Ordinary Kids’ cast director Adrienne Gans, who played Magenta during the show, also thanked the community for coming. She, creative director Paul DeLarge (who played Frank) and technical director Michael Hambel gave the rules for the show:
Audience members who dressed up entered a costume contest; the winner received two free tickets to see any show at the Clairidge. And, as is tradition, two Rocky Horror “virgins” were “sacrificed” (which is to say, they were called up to the stage, given a red piece of paper and ridiculed in good fun by the audience until it was ripped.)
“Rocky Horror” is an R-rated film, and the show doesn’t shy away from its subversive, sexual nature. Much of the language and subject matter isn’t well-suited for younger audiences.
But the event’s program warns: “Hate speech of any kind is not in good fun. Keep that at home, not at our show.”
The show began with a video montage by Ordinary Kids members — starting with a person in a horse mask and blue polo shirt returning home and turning on the TV. A pre-recorded rendition of “Science Fiction/Double Feature” (the opening song to “Rocky Horror”) by The Mary Lous (a band that includes Ordinary Kids cast member Razor De Rockefeller) opened up a montage of shorts by the cast — including parodies of the “Golden Girls” and a 1990s-style phone sex commercial.
When the famous lips appeared on screen, January Embers, who played Trixie, began lip-synching and dancing, cabaret style, hyping the audience with every move. Janet and Brad were played by Randi Riot and Julie, respectively. Riff Raff was played by Kristen, Rocky was played by JR and The Crim was played by Jethro.
The cast made sure the audience knew what a “Rocky Horror” show should feel like. Members directed the audience to when to throw props, when to stand up and dance, and when to crack jokes and yell out lines throughout the show — keeping it lively and fun. At the end of the event, the cast of The Ordinary Kids thanked the audience for attending the return of “Rocky Horror” to Montclair, and announced an upcoming show for Nov. 13.
“Thank you so much for coming to our first show. And thank you for the amazing support,” Gans said.