At the heart of The Rocky Horror Show, says Shakespeare Theatre Company associate director Alan Paul, is the message that it’s okay to be different: “To anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider, which is basically everyone at some point, it says, ‘Don’t dream it—be it.’ Let your freak flag fly.” Paul and Studio Theatre managing director Keith Alan Baker are codirecting the campy musical at Studio to mark the 40th anniversary of its original London run as well as the 25th anniversary of Studio’s 2ndStage. Both men are adamant that their production—July 10 through August 4—will be different from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the 1975 movie that launched the careers of Susan Sarandon and Tim Curry while ingraining itself as a cult classic. “We’re making choices that are not what everybody knows from the movie,” says Baker. “We’re aiming to shock—this is not your grandmother’s Rocky Horror.”
Baker hesitates to give too much away, but the production will feature a two-level set by Giorgos Tsappas plus projections and video by Erik Trester. Adventure Theatre MTC’s Michael Bobbitt is the choreographer, while Mitchell Jarvis (Broadway’s Rock of Ages) stars as Frank N. Furter. The cast includes an 11-person ensemble whose costumes won’t leave much to the imagination. “We told them we were looking for people who weren’t inhibited,” says Baker. “There may be some . . . exposure, let’s say.” The directors, fusing what Paul describes as “two very different off-kilter imaginations,” aim to enhance some of the science-fiction themes from Richard O’Brien’s original stage show and encourage audience participation while paying tribute to what’s made the play popular. Says Paul: “It’s etched in people’s frontal lobes and in their hearts. With anything that’s so powerful over such a long period, you have an instant desire to do it because it’s given people so much joy.”
The Rocky Horror Show, July 10 to Aug. 4 at Studio Theatre. Tickets ($43 to $48) are available online.
This article appears in the July 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.