Rocky Horror initial problem:
How do you put up this show? It is the question for a The Rocky Horror Show creative team. How do we effectively strike a balance between what is ingrained in Rocky Horror fan culture, and the desire of the artists to put their own signature on it? If you stray too far toward the cult expectations you end up recreating the the live performance’s at the midnight film showings, but if you try to reinvent the musical you risk having things worse than rice and toast thrown at you.
This problem was such an issue that for the first time in my directing career I came to a first meeting with the designers with literally nothing to discuss or show other than this issue. We spent a great deal of time trying to decide where the balance fell, and how we could best serve our audience as well as put a stamp on the show to claim it as our own. We decided that the costumes had to fall fairly in-line with traditions, but that we could risk a bolder move with the set design.
The Rocky Horror Vision:
The vision for the set came from some dramaturgical work on the script (of which we had to be careful of because any serious dramaturgy on this text pretty much turns it into dust) which gave some imagery-like Brad’s line, “It looks like a hunting lodge for rich weirdos,” Rocky’s line, “This room is like a womb to me,” and Dr. Scott’s observation that it the room appeared to be, “made of a metal not from this earth.” These descriptions set us on a discussion that while we bought that the castle had the appearance of a “castle,” on the outside for the sake of fooling people passing by, there did not seem to be any reason for the castle to look ”castle-like” in the interior.
In fact we sort of felt like the movie set designer might have even gotten it wrong in that we know the castle is actually a spaceship, but there is no practical reason it should resemble a Gothic-era castle on the inside. So we started looking at those descriptions about the “metal” and the “womb” and decided to pursue a futuristic style with an organic interface. This would allow the interior to be markedly “alienating,” but would also allow us to solve the problems of all the lab’s futuristic functions by making them organic in their operation.
Music Director Jason Solounias decided to give the show a bit of a differentiating flair from the movie by using the harmony’s and arrangements from the revival score. He has in essence created his own hybrid sound to the musical by moving fluidly back and forth between the original and the revival versions. Choreographer Christen Svingos proposed the idea that in addition to the phantoms/Transylvanians singing background harmonies on nearly every song that we would lean the casting toward dancers who would be able to bring a strong visual presence to each musical number.
This show is all about having a great time, especially since the cultural phenomenon of The Rocky Horror Show is the reason that many us became interested in theatre in the first place. One of the first things I said to the cast and design team was, “If we are not having a great time working on this show then we are not doing it right.”
The Rocky Horror Show plays from October 19th to November 4, 2012 at the Washington Savoyards at Atlas Performing Arts Center – 1333 H Street, NE, In Washington, DC. For tickets, purchase them online.