We got to Imperial Cinema a little before 11 p.m., looking forward to a night of cult-movie debauchery. Right off the bat, however, it became clear that this night would be quite the experience—something we should’ve expected with all the hype that surrounds the annual live-action performance of Richard O’ Brien’s Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The line outside of the theatre was massive; employees were standing on makeshift pedestals yelling out names of people still on the wait-list. Adding to the confusion was the swarm of people in various stages of dress and undress; people in sugar skull makeup, men in burlesque drag, and groups of people already in character milled around the theatre entrance vying for the few remaining tickets.
Once we finally entered the theatre, the madness continued—no assigned seats meant scrambling around looking for the best possible view that would still accommodate the amount of people you came with. Not an inconvenience at typical cinemas, but the addition of the already chaotic atmosphere made it seem like we were in fierce competition with everyone around me.
When the show finally started, the actors that would perform along with the film emceed a quick fashion show. A couple dressed like they were being attacked by birds—à la the Alfred Hitchcock film—impressed us. Once the opening festivities ended and the film began, we were greeted by an explosion of shouts from the crowd. It was evident that for the vast majority of those in attendance, this was a beloved annual event.
The overall sound quality of the film was sub-par, and the on-stage speaker’s commentary on the film quickly became tiring, as her continuous stream of comments were rarely humorous. The actors on stage spent the majority of their time simply mimicking the film as it played behind them, acting as a distraction rather than enhancing the overall experience.
We don’t mean to be over-critical of the performance—it was fun, and the audience members’ enthusiasm was undeniably contagious. While the constant commentary slightly diluted the experience, there were some standout moments of hilarity, such as when the speaker compared Dr. Frank-N-Furter with Pauline Marois. Additionally, when the actors on stage interpreted the show into improv sketches, as opposed to merely lip-syncing the action behind them, they greatly livened up the show.
Performance-wise, the ‘interactive’ parts of the show that were meant to bring the production to life could certainly improve by merely focusing on quality over quantity. However, the audience in attendance didn’t seem to mind one bit. Ironically, it was moments of audience interaction—either through costumes, responses to the script, or prop usage—that ultimately stole the show. Long-term fans of Rocky Horror certainly would, and did, react well to this type of familial film-watching, but for those who either don’t know the film—or even worse, don’t know what to expect—watching this live production comes off as nothing more than chaotic and disorderly, rather than fun and interactive.
As far as we’re concerned, the best way to react is to grab the deepest red lipstick you own and embrace the show for all it is: Hectic, horrifying, and hilarious.