“Rocky Horror,” in its own way, has managed to stay as cutting edge in its campiness as when it premiered in London in 1973.
No, that’s not a typo. The movie starring Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter was released in 1975, but the stage production, also starring Curry, made its debut in 1973.
Theatre Baton Rouge will be staging a new brand of Frank-N-Furter when it opens its annual Halloween production of “The Rocky Horror Show” on Friday. In fact, this Frank-N-Furter is so cutting edge that it may just push the production over the edge.
“The way I look at it, I was casting the best person for this part,” director Matt Miyagi said.
And who was the best person? Jacqueline R. Paulsen.
Yes, Frank, the domineering transgender mad doctor, who strives to create the perfect muscle man, who he named Rocky, will be played by a woman. But it doesn’t stop there.
Maddie Roby will play Rocky.
“It changes the dynamic in a way, but it still works,” Paulsen said. “But my perspective is Frank is an alien, and those around him are aliens, and I don’t think they had gender rules.”
That may be a spoiler for those who have never seen a version of “Rocky Horror,” because it’s revealed in the end that Frank, his hired help and his merry band of phantoms are, indeed, beings from outer space. They live in a castle, where, it seems, everyone lives in a continuous party.
The audience is introduced to this group of aliens the moment stranded couple Brad Majors, played by Scott Don Bosco Mitchell, and Janet Weiss, played by Diane Isom, knock on the castle door.
Little do they know what they’re walking into.
“It is a different world,” Paulsen continues. “And though Frank has masculine energy and is the commanding center of attention, I’m physically presenting him as androgynous.”
The situation for Roby is different as Rocky. That character is brought into the world as a newly created man with big muscles covered only by golden underwear.
“Well, I won’t be on stage wearing golden underwear,” Roby said, laughing.
And she won’t be ripped, either. Instead, she’ll sport long, blonde ponytails, and she’ll be playing Rocky in her own way.
“I saw ‘Rocky Horror’ for the first time last year at Theatre Baton Rouge, and I wanted to try out for it,” she said. “After the audition, they called me back and asked, ‘Can you act like you have bubbles for brains?'”
That’s when Roby knew she was the unconventional choice for Rocky.
“I’m still playing the part with a Rocky vibe,” she said. “I’m just putting a feminine twist to it.”
The other roles were traditionally cast, but Janet’s emotional journey will be somewhat altered. She’ll still be uptight and naive, and Isom will play her true to form. But there comes a point when Janet will fall for Rocky.
“Her story is still about discovering who she is,” Isom said. “I believe she experiences her awakening when she is introduced to Rocky, and in this show, Rocky is a girl.”
Meanwhile, Carole J. Moore will play the castle’s only human, Columbia. Watch closely, because Moore reveals something about her character that isn’t always obvious.
“She’s drugged,” Moore said. “They keep her drugged with alien spray, and every time she starts coming out of it, they’ll spray her again.”
Columbia is called a groupie, the human who’s been hanging out longest with the aliens. She’s cute, she’s sparkly and she tap dances in the middle of the Time Warp.
But does she really want to live among Frank-N-Furter and the gang? That’s a little bit of food for thought as audience members sing along; dance the Time Warp with butler and maid Riff Raff, Brendon Landry, and Magenta, played by Elaina Bachman; and interact with the dialogue.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter who’s playing the roles. “Rocky Horror” is campy fun. And if you haven’t yet bought your tickets, do it now, because this will be Theatre Baton Rouge’s last “Rocky” production for awhile.
“It’ll go into hiatus after this,” Miyagi said. “We’ve been doing ‘Rocky’ for awhile, and the theater decided to take a break from Frank’s castle. We hope it will be coming back soon.”
Until then, “Rocky” fans will be waiting with antici — pation.
‘The Rocky Horror Show’
Friday through Sunday, and Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 27-30. Shows are at 8 p.m. and 11:59 p.m. on all nights.
Theatre Baton Rouge’s Studio Theatre, 7155 Florida Blvd.
$25-$35. The 8 p.m. shows are sold out on Friday and Saturday, and Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 27-29. The 11:59 p.m. shows are sold out on Thursday and Friday, Oct. 27 and 28.
(225) 924-6496 or theatrebr.org