THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW
From today’s perspective, with the gigantic cult around “The Rocky Horror (Picture) Show,” the early years seem downright paltry. An unemployed jack-of-all-trades lies on the sofa at night, pondering a crazy new idea for a play, a director friend helps him a little, and the “Rocky Horror Show,” originally with the less than promising working title “They Came from Denton High,” celebrates its premiere in front of an audience of – believe it or not – sixty people, on a mini-stage in the attic of a West End theater in London.
But that’s really the way it was. The show, which nowadays easily fills up large halls (not to mention smaller theaters), gradually turned into a box-office hit after its world premiere in 1973, aided, of course, by the relatively early film adaptation (with the addition of the word “Picture” in its title) which came to the movies in 1975. It was the movie that gave rise to the varied forms of audience participation, which reverberated back to the stage show – from matching outfits and precisely coordinated cat calls to throwing confetti and toilet paper. Only in 1979 did the show advance to a bigger London theater, where it was performed more than 3,000 times. In the United States – unlike in Britain – the movie was a big success, whereas the original stage show was not.
Bad, night-time horror movies inspired the multitalented O’Brien (b. 1942) to concoct this daring combination. But considering that theater censorship was not entirely abolished in the U.K. until 1968, “The Rocky Horror Show” is also a plea for the freedom to make one’s dreams come true. “Don’t dream it – be it!” Frank N. Furter appeals to his crazy friends and housemates Brad and Janet – who hardly know what’s happening to them – and certainly to us as well, who, sitting in the theater nowadays, have the kind of fun that was hard-fought back in the stuffy 1970s.
O’Brien, who wrote a number of musicals, screenplays and shows after “The Rocky Horror Show,” continued to work as an actor as well. He not only played the legendary and brilliant Riff Raff in the “Rocky Horror” film, but was so successful as – of all things! – the child catcher in the musical “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” that he was invited to play the role in the gala performance at Buckingham Palace on the Queen’s 80th birthday.
Anyone attending the show in normal clothing is asked, “Are you a virgin?” But a fan guide consoles the “virgins”: It’s not so tragic if you don’t know that going to “The Rocky Horror Show” requires a special outfit. Because you can’t avoid the squirt guns and confetti shower anyway. And, besides, another performance is sure to follow soon.
(Translation: David Burnett)
shorttime changes in the evening’s cast possible due to illness and force majeure