The Rocky Horror Picture Show on Fox
“As you can imagine, when we announced that we were doing this, there was a tremendous backlash from fans… That all loosened up and all became more interesting to them when Tim signed on. His validation and also as an actor just gave them something to look forward to.” Lou Adler
By Valerie Milano
Beverly Hills, CA (The Hollywood Times) 10/21/16 – On Wednesday night, FOX continued its campaign to spin newer, shinier gold by delivering yesteryear’s song and dance to a younger audience. The network’s latest laboratory experiment is The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And like most science experiments, it relies heavily on formula.
The show opens with a longish number that (rather clumsily) tries to weave in a movie house audience that will be watching the show along with the TV audience. During the 1970’s, The Rocky Horror Picture Show established its brand as an arthouse phenomena, where obsessives across the nation showed up to midnight showings in costume and interacted with the film. Diehard fans of “Rocky” will probably view this attempt at linkage with jaded eyes; while first time “Rocky” viewers will likely scratch their noggins and go…huh?
Laverne Cox (OITNB) adds an industrial strength twist (Cox is a transsexual woman playing the lead role). Her reverence and affinity for the material and Tim Curry’s film portrayal of Dr. Frank-N-Furter is obvious from the get go. She’s got the moves and Tim Curry’s clipped, verbal cadence down to a tee. Elsewhere things begin to wobble. Adam Lambert is woefully miscast as the party crashing biker (Eddie), and many of the musical numbers have a stagy ‘High School Musical’ energy that reveals the cast’s disconnection from the source material. Additionally, Fox’s decision to blunt the original’s sexual pop by swapping out Rocky’s bulging briefs for a pair of PC boxer shorts is lame stream pandering of the worst kind. Missing from Fox’s production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, is the camp appeal; based (in large part) on the film’s original low budget desperation as well as its secret-society appeal. It was the perfect underground classic for an LGBT community still marginalized during the 70’s.
To be fair, the FOX production has systemic deficiencies beyond the producer’s control. The original film had come and gone when queer culture resurrected it as an outsider cult classic. That connectivity cannot be manufactured for a prime time network audience. Further, its unique appeal comes from the demolition of the invisible wall that separates the audience and performer. The Rocky Horror Picture Show was among the first interactive media art pieces. Attendees came in costume, shouted out dialogue along with the actors and brandished props at crucial intervals. It was an experience that demanded creativity from the viewer as well as the creator. This dynamic is crucial to the franchise and does not square with boardroom makeovers and primetime cache. Moreover, The Snickers sponsored commercial slot where the show’s makeup artist shatters the on screen illusion with a backstage demo only succeeded as a buzz kill for those attempting to suspend their disbelief for a couple of hours. Don’t know why they do dat. And although Tim Curry’s cameo as The Narrator was touching, it also felt oddly exploitative.
This reviewer hoped for more than a two hour commercial spot recommending you seek out a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at an art house near you. Sadly, that’s all we got.
THT, TCA and others recently had the opportunity to speak with executive producer Gail Berman, executive producer, director and choreographer Kenny Ortega, executive producer Lou Adler, and stars Victoria Justice, Ryan McCartan; Tim Curry; Reeve Carney; Christina Milian, Ben Vereen, Annaleigh Ashford, Staz Nair and Ivy Levan.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s fan base is loyal and protective, Kenny Ortega spoke about the attempt to win them over and Tim Curry’s involvement in the project:
KENNY ORTEGA: “Tim Curry, of course, who joined us right from the start and opened up a dialogue. When we shot the film and we filled the theater with fans, we tried many things, but we wanted to make sure the callbacks didn’t get in the way of telling a story but that celebrated the telling of a story. So together it was trial and error. We would try them, and we would say, “That one really works. That one really supports the story. That one kind of gets in the way and draws us back” and found a way to balance the callbacks into the arc of our full story.”
Victoria Justice talked about this new production’s potential appeal to a younger audience unfamiliar with the original.
VICTORIA JUSTICE: I just want to say that coming from the world of Nickelodeon and having a lot of younger fans that are teenagers and young adults, I think it’s gonna be really cool to be able to introduce THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW to a brand-new generation that probably wouldn’t have been exposed to it otherwise. The fact that it’s going to be airing on FOX on TV to the masses is something that is so cool, because now a new generation is going to be able to sing along to “The Time Warp,” and they’re going to be familiar with these characters. And I think it can inspire them in a lot of many different ways. Also having a transgender amazingly talented woman playing Dr. Frank-N-Furter I think is such a reflection of where we are today as a society. Yeah. Just mainly the fact that I think it’s going to reach so many more people and continue the legacy.”
Lou Adler touched on casting the role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter.
LOU ADLER: “We never put out a call for just transvestites to do this part. We put out a call for actors that could sing, dance, and move. And in a way, Laverne was perfect because we thought, we have found someone that will not be compared to Tim Curry, because you lose if you’re comparing to Tim Curry.”