Last week's The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do The Time Warp Again, which aired on FOX, is a production I've been hearing about for nearly a year now. It starred Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Reeve Carney as Riff-Raff and Tim Curry as the Narrator. I do like the original Rocky Horror, for which Tim Curry is famous for, but am certainly not a Rocky fanatic--I've never see a midnight screening with an audience. But I did see the revival on Broadway (right after 9/11 no less) and it was one of my favorite live theatre experiences. So I certainly appreciate what Rocky is and what it represents to so many people.
This new production of Rocky Horror lacks...bite. I really admire Cox's work on Orange is the New Black and loved Carney in Penny Dreadful (the first two seasons, anyway). And of course Tim Curry needs no introduction--He was fantastic even after suffering a stroke in 2013. But, it just seemed to me the majority of the cast was imitating the original film, to a large degree. However, besides lack of strong acting choices, I honestly don't fault the cast completely. I think any issue I have is with the producers and director Kenny Ortega--whose past work includes the High School Musical franchise, Newsies, and Hocus Pocus.
Let's start with the positives--It was a really pretty production. Costumes, lighting, sets were really fantastic and well thought out. However, I feel the musical numbers just didn't have the energy that they needed--especially the Time Warp. The new arrangement sucked the energy right out of the beginning of the song and it never recovered. I felt like either Ortega or the producers didn't trust the script--or us for that matter. They camped up an already very campy script, directing the actors to make sure, we the audience, "get it." I am also going to be the first to admit that I understand the B-movie and matinee actor references that are sprinkled throughout (I am a horror host after all!). The demographic (teenagers) that this was aimed at and watched this show probably didn't get many of those references--hell they may have never seen the original Rocky Horror, for that matter. I think some of the cast didn't fully get what they were conveying, either.
But therein lies the problem. Rocky Horror was raunchy, campy film that started out as a raunchy campy stage production that found an audience within gay and underground sub-culture of the 1970s and beyond. What made it so successful was that midnight communal experience. That really doesn't exist on primetime network television on a Thursday night. It also doesn't help that sex and innuendo was downplayed or eliminated altogether. What was left was over-played and didn't have a lot of layers or character development. As a result, I got pretty board by the halfway point.
I have no real problems with remakes, for the most part. Any theatre company in the world, who can pay the royalties, can do Rocky Horror or any other show for that matter. I look at film remakes in a similar way. But, I wouldn't produce Sexual Perversity in Chicago at the local high school and I think FOX may not have been the best place to air the Rocky Horror remake. The actors could have made some more interesting and bolder choices. If you are going to remake something, you have to make it your own. This production just seemed to try too hard to be like the original. Ironically, one of the most interesting characters was Tim Curry--who played his role as the narrator completely different than his predecessor, Charles Gray. The weakest link was Adam Lambert as Eddie. Lambert turned his number into his own personal American Idol--there was no connection to the material or the other actors. He sang--but there was nothing behind the lyrics.
It takes a lot of resources and talent to produce a production like the Rocky Horror Picture Show. There are a lot of moving parts. It's just apparent that the cast needed more rehearsal and liberty to make Rocky Horror their own..