There were vibrantly dressed girls flirting with audience goers before the “Rocky Horror Show” started in Grant Hall Theater.
Audience members were walking through the aisles, sitting on the upper parts of the seats and throwing their legs over the heads of patrons; this was the climate of the theater before the show. Attendees were offered prop bags filled with noisemakers, squirt guns, confetti and other oddities for use during the show. It was from this moment, with alternative rock blaring through the speakers and the jubilant play of the ushers it became clear this was going to be a show in a completely different league than most.
The Rocky Horror Show is a story about love, sex, freedom, submission and aliens. It tells the story of Brad Majors and Janet Weis, two newlyweds who, after suffering a flat tire on their honey moon, find themselves on the steps of a mysterious mansion housing things beyond their imagination. What follows is a personal journey for the both of them that ends with the two learning the true meaning of love. Beyond that, it’s about sex, and the UMKC theatre department embraced that in nearly every way possible.
Keeping in the tradition with the original showings, audience participation was encouraged. Certain patrons around the theater shouted jokes and callouts at the stage throughout the show. Every time the newlyweds introduced themselves their names would be followed by resounding expletives, and lines delivered with the upmost seriousness were comically shot down with lightning fast pun precision. One of the many that got a lovely response was when the titular mad scientist, Dr. Frank-n-Furter, asked for his assistant Columbia—just before saying her name a member of the audience shouted “Where are all the slutty girls in Missouri?”
The hallmark of the show was indeed the characters, from the adorable innocents Brand and Janet, played wonderfully by Michael Hanman and Merit Christensen, to the mysterious and monstrously well-endowed Riff Raff played radically by Lindsay Nelson. There is care in the performances and it’s clear that this was a production made by people who love the source material. The main character any fan of Rocky Horror thinks about when they imagine the tale of sex and science fiction, however, is Frank himself, played by Aaron Mitchell. Although coming in without the largest of connections to the musical, Mitchell made Frank-n-Furter all his own and pushed the performance to monolithic proportions. His performance was rivalled only by Margaret Shelby’s raucously hilarious take on the narrator.
The Rocky Horror Show was one of the greatest performances by UMKC Theatre ever, ending with a full, nearly five minute long standing ovation from the entire audience. Whether their next production will live up to the majesty of this is unclear, but if Rocky Horror showed anything, it’s that they have more than enough stamina when it counts.