The Rocky Horror Picture Show is one of the first and greatest midnight cult classics. On a Friday Night you can count on a theater full of cosplaying fans with all the accessories watching and responding to it somewhere in the world.
Long a staple of dinner theater (a delicious twist that is certainly filling… I mean fitting), a very talented group of players has produced a new version for television and it does, indeed, do the Time Warp again.
Even if you’ve never seen it, you probably know the story of The Rocky Horror Picture – the freshly engaged Brad Majors (Ryan McCartan) and Janet Weiss (Victoria Justice) take a wrong turn following their attendance at a wedding and, caught in rainstorm, with a flat tire and no spare, they seek a phone at a nearby castle – and are swept into a transcendental transsexual whirl of passion and peculiarity.
When you consider the popularity of the original (those dinner theater presentations always sell out; those midnight screenings always sell out), it takes a lot of nerve to try to make a TV-safe version – especially when virtually all of the film’s performances are searing into the public consciousness.
What director Kenny Ortega has done is added little fillips of updating (like a certain mic drop) that keep the story completely intact (not sure where this version lost eleven minutes – almost nothing in the original would raise eyebrows today…) and then just gone for it.
From the gorgeous rendition of Science Fiction/Double Feature by Usherette (Ivy Levan) to the wistful I’m Going Home (Laverne Cox), TRHPS: Let’s Do The Time Warp Again is filled with solid-to-great versions of the songs: some better (Science Fiction/Double Feature); some almost identical and safe (Touch-a Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me), and some even slightly better (Adam Lambert’s take on Hot Patootie-Bless My Soul).
Somehow, though, there are missed opportunities – like not having transsexual Laverne Cox singing Sweet Transvestite in male drag (which would have combined with her sexuality to create a triple layer to her performance), for example. On the other hand, Cox has a decent voice and, when given the opportunity, can really act her way through a song.
Since a television production can’t be quite the same statement that the film was when it came out in 1975, it instead goes for being a supporting statement for diversity and inclusion now – and on that level it succeeds admirably.
Director Ortega probably had a lot more money to work with than Richard O’Brien did – the sets, effects and props are of significantly better quality – and he has a cast that both looks great and can sell the show’s premise whether singing or speaking. Thus, it’s a bit problematic when some of the performances (I’m looking at you Reeve Carney/Riff Raff) are too close to being complete copies of the originals. Cox’s accent is sometimes a shade too Tim Curry-ish, but her performance is, overall, more expansive. (Curry is on Telehand as The Narrator to give him implicit seas of approval to the production.)
There are some great moments that more than make up for the production’s few flaws – the two sequences in which Dr. Frank-N-Furter separately seduces Brad and Janet manage to suggest the sexuality/sensuality of the original while not quite giving Practices and Standards any cause for alarm (plus these two sequences are, for my money, funnier than the original).
Despite mimicking Richard O’Brien too closely, Carney does an excellent job with Time Warp – matching O’Brien’s intensity nicely.
A nifty conceit Ortega uses is treating the story as if it’s a movie in a theater filled with Rocky Horror fans. From time to time, there are cuts to the theater and we watch as the fans talk to the screen, toss toilet paper into the air, and so forth. It’s done just often enough to give the audience a glimpse at what it might feel like to be watching the original at a midnight showing.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again is almost as much fun as the original.
Final Grade: B