Friday night found me at something considerably lower-brow than the Cirque du Soleil’s presentation of Corteo that I attended the night before: a live stage production of the Rocky Horror Show (apparently, it’s only called the Rocky Horror Picture Show in the film version). It’s playing at Stage West, a dinner theatre in the suburbs of Toronto, and continues until mid-September. A bit of a strange venue for Rocky Horror: Stage West is usually filled with suburban types who don’t want to drive into the city for theatre and are happy to see an older or “revival” production with actors who aren’t exactly top tier (I realize how snobby that sounds, but I live right at the edge of the true theatre district downtown, which comes third only to London and New York’s theatre districts). Even stranger was Friday night’s performance, which was performed at midnight and encouraged the audience to attend in costume, unlike the other performances in the run.
As a bit of back story, I was introduced to RHPS over 25 years ago, as a first-year university student, by my new friends living in the same dormitory residence. Many of them were veteran RHPS attendees, with costumes and all the props (toast, newspaper, lighter, confetti), so I was in good hands for my first time. Many of us imbibed in mind-altering substances before the show began; in fact, I had to go back and see it a second time to check if the colours were really that bright or if it was just the hallucinations (a bit of each). It took me two days to get the computer punch-card chips that everyone used as confetti out of my hair, and I’ve never really recovered from the sight of one friend in full Frank-N-Furter attire. I saw the show several times over the next ten years, usually the midnight show at the now-defunct Roxy movie theatre in Toronto, and heard the music countless times.
Back to the present, six of us (including one person who was at my original RHPS viewing 25 years ago) headed out to the ‘burbs to attend the show with a bunch of other early-middle-aged nostalgics, preceded by dinner and a costume contest. The audience variety was astounding: at a table near us was (as expected) a divine gentleman in fishnets, a leather Merry Widow, high heels, full makeup, wig and a dead ringer of Tim Curry’s original strut. On the other side (completely unexpected) was a suburban matron in a white skirt and sweater set, pearls, with her blonde hair perfectly coiffed as if she were at an afternoon tea party in Rosedale. Somehow, she was considerably more unsettling than any of the Riff Raffs, Magentas, Columbias or Franks in the audience.
Many of the audience sang along (as did I), and some knew the talk-back lines that have become familiar at any Rocky Horror performance, live or film. Then, in that moment during Over at the Frankenstein Place when lighters snapped into action all over the theatre, I was completely transported back to 1979. As nostalgia goes, this was top-notch.