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The Sweetest Transvestite

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‘The Rocky Horror Show’ comes to University of Houston … live

By Donalevan Maines • sidebar by Nancy Ford

SEE ALSO SIDEBAR
‘Rocky’…the Old-fashioned Way
(that is to say, on the big screen,
at the River Oaks.)

KellyBurnett
Kelly Burnett as Brad (second from left), surrounded by phantoms Grant Davis, Andrew Runk, and Jonathan Colunga

Days are gone when a man in fishnet stockings is looked on as something shocking. Today, heaven knows, anything goes!

“We see RuPaul all the time,” says Paul Hope, describing the dilemma of directing the stage musical, The Rocky Horror Show, which took things to “de limit” three decades ago, but now, Hope says, “seems pretty quaint.”

Rocky Horror played only 45 performances when it debuted on Broadway in 1975, but the movie version became a cult classic. Seeing Tim Curry vamp as the iconic Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a “sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania,” is a rite of passage acknowledged by the movie’s inclusion in the National Film Registry (2000) and the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Hall of Fame (1980).

JohnPhillips
John Phillips as Rocky, the man who thinks dynamic tension must be hard work.

But how do you make the old chestnut delicious, delectable, and delirious? For this month’s production of Rocky Horror at the University of Houston, Hope attacked the problem head-on, asking “What can we find in it that’s shocking? Can we make it shocking? Can we make it sexy and titillating?”

First, he instructed costume designer Claire Hummel “to push the envelope” with jock straps, bustiers, and thongs. His only admonishment: “Just keep me out of jail!” (Even Hope wondered whether today’s college students would balk at showing so much skin, but another instructor laughed, “Are you kidding? Some of these kids would moon us in the hallway!”)

Second, he combed the script to discover that Rocky Horror “is really Brad and Janet’s story. Frank-N-Furter doesn’t have an arc. He’s the catalyst. It’s Brad and Janet’s coming-out story.” Hope decided a way to make the show racy is to show how square Brad and repressed Janet react to—SPOILER ALERT—having sex with Frank.

“Brad and Janet confront the two gender taboos: a sexually aggressive female and a sexually receptive male,” Hope explains. So his production will “play with the idea” of “how ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?”

“The ending of the film is inconclusive,” he says. “Janet [Susan Sarandon] gets in touch with her inner slut, but Brad [Barry Bostwick] seems to be unaffected by having man-sex with Frank. “I don’t think so,” says Hope.

Isn’t it more likely that Brad would get a thrill divine down his spine? Wouldn’t he let the tipsy gypsy in him out? By final curtain, shouldn’t he be singing, “If, baby, you’re a bottom, I’m a top”? We’ll see what Hope thinks when he unveils an ending that suggests how Brad’s and Janet’s “horizons have been expanded.” Then we’ll check the police blotter to see if it lands Hope in jail.

 
 

DevenandCody
Deven (l) and Cody as Columbia and Brad. At the RO.

The Rocky Horror Show

, a musical filled with sex, aliens, and rock ’n’ roll, has Brad and Janet taking a fantastical journey to Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s twisted castle where his ghoulish minions dance “The Time Warp” and awaken repressed sensuality. Featured songs: “Science Fiction Double Feature,” “Damn It Janet,” “Sweet Transvestite,” “I Can Make You a Man.” For mature audiences. October 23, 24, 29, 30, 31, and November 1 at 8 p.m. October 25 at 2 p.m. Late-night show October 31 at 11 p.m. Wortham Theatre on the UH campus.

 
Also onstage this month at UH:

The Importance of Being Earnest by gay playwright/provocateur Oscar Wilde. Dandy gentlemen in 1890s England navigate love, marriage, and Victorian morals with dry humor and quick wit. Directed by Jonathan Gonzalez. Oct. 9–10 and Oct. 14–17 at 8 p.m.; Oct. 11 and Oct. 18 at 2 p.m. At Quintero Theatre on the UH campus.

Landscape of the Body by gay playwright John Guare. This 1977 “drama of dangerous weirdness” references the Lou Reed song “Take a Walk on the Wild Side” (you know, where the black girls go “Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo”). Directed by graduate student Cheramie Howe in Studio 208, on the second floor of the drama building. Admission is free, but the space holds only 50 seats. First come, first served, and UH season-ticket subscribers get priority ticketing. Oct. 16–17 at 7:30 p.m.; Oct. 18 at 2 p.m.

Donalevan Maines wrote about the Emmys in the September issue of OutSmart.

SIDEBAR

‘Rocky’…the Old-fashioned Way

The umbrellas. The toast. The live cast superimposed against the on-screen film characters—all these ingredients blend together to form one of the most delectable desserts of pop culture ever to tumble out of the 20th century. As they have for, oh, say 30-plus years, theater majors and insomniacs continue to lace up their bodices and pull on their fright wigs for The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

This being Halloween month, not to mention National Coming Out month, October’s three-date midnight screenings—featuring the antics of the  members of the “Beautiful Creatures” live Rocky cast—at Landmark River Oaks Theatre, provide an excellent opportunity for budding crossdressers to roll on their fishnets without actually committing to transsexual activism.

Not familiar enough with the film to pack your own interactive supplies? Not to worry; for an extra $2, producers provide you with a “Rocky bag.” Now, that’s scary. Oct. 10, 30, and 31, midnight. 2009 W. Gray St. • houstonrhps.com. —Nancy Ford

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Don Maines

Donalevan Maines is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.
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