📷 Kionna Hazzard and Edward Lindem play Brad and Janet. Sarah Champagne photo
By Sarah Champagne, Managing Editor
SOUTHBRIDGE – Local theater group Gateway Players will soon deliver a “wonderfully weird” and “fabulously freaky” show to audiences in Southern Worcester County in the form of the unparalleled Rocky Horror Show. It’s a strange story with outlandish characters that has become a cult classic since its premiere in the 1970s.
Audiences may be familiar with “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the movie based on the original stage production. Because Gateway Players will present the stage production, the show is called “The Rocky Horror Show” (sans “picture”). This 1973 stage musical was adapted to film in 1975 and went on to become a long-lasting cultural phenomenon.
Showings of the movie attract fans who dress up like the characters, shout standard “call-backs” at the screen or act out the story as the movie plays in the background. The differences between the stage musical and the film version are minimal, and Gateway’s stage format will include many of the interactive elements that fans have loved for decades.
“There are a couple of things in the movie that weren’t in the play,” comments director Bill Guy, noting that the play will include the usual interactive and participatory elements as well as well-known songs associated with the story, including “Time Warp,” “Damn It, Janet” and “Sweet Transvestite.”
The story starts with an engaged couple, the young and naïve Brad and Janet, who become stranded while driving in the rain and take shelter in the nearby castle estate of Dr. Frank-n-Furter. They encounter more than they could have expected, entering a wild world of freaky monsters, aliens and other strangers.
The production has attracted many local faces that will be familiar to Gateway audiences, as well as talented contributors from a wider area. Recognizable Gateway veterans include Billy Bolster, Louis Aviles, Lynn Boucher and Robyn Spain. Joining the cast are Claire Bertrand from Chicopee as a phantom, Cate Boram from Holyoke as Columbia and Shane Cordray, who is originally from Mississippi, as Frank.
“I live in Western Mass, but I come out because they are such a fun group of people,” remarked Bertrand, who has been in a few other Gateway shows.
The cast and crew have been rehearsing at Elm Street Congregational Church, but each showing of the musical will be held at The Cannery Music Hall at 12 Crane Street. The entire cast and crew gathered for a rehearsal at the church on a sweltering August evening.
“We have a bad habit if melting. This is actually one of our cooler rehearsals,” commented Cordray.
Nearby, costume designer Sierra Trudel made sure that Boram had everything she needed to get in costume as Columbia, with a glittering gold bodice, a top hat and other stylistic flairs.
“We wanted to pay homage to the movie while still making it our own,” commented Trudel.
The incongruous nature of rehearsing the many raunchy or provocative lines of The Rocky Horror Show on church property is not lost on the cast and crew.
“There have been a few times when we are rehearsing, and we might say, ‘Boy, what if the minister were to walk in right now?’” comments Guy with a chuckle.
The show features actors ranging in age from 19 to 72 and contains adult themes, as anyone familiar with the story might know. The characters are often seen in racy costumes or underwear.
“The audience gets to see more of me than they ever bargained for,” remarks Edward Lindem, who plays Brad.
Brad’s counterpart Janet is played by Kionna Hazzard of Putnam, Connecticut. Hazzard says that she has been acting “since she was little” and that her mother, who passed away when Hazzard was 13 years old, was the reason she started singing.
Audience members will receive a cheat sheet with prompts for call-outs, and prop bags will be available for $5 each. The proceeds from the sale of prop bags will support the Gateway To The Future Fund, which supports the theater company’s search for a new home after its original building was deemed uninhabitable last year.
The Rocky Horror Show is produced by Barbara Day and directed by Bill Guy with Chris Rubenacker as musical director, Chris McTigue as props manager, and Erin Morin as stage manager. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased online through brown paper tickets (linked here and on the Gateway Website) or by calling (508) 764-4531. Gateway recommends buying tickets in advance for this show because it is likely to sell out.
Show times are Friday, Aug. 17, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 18 at 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 19 at 2 p.m. There will be a cash bar on-site and those entering who are over 21 will receive a wristband. The play runs a little over two hours with an intermission.