One rarely has the opportunity to throw toasted bread or toilet–paper across an elegant theatre venue—rarely, but not never. From Oct. 31—Nov. 2, Cinéma Impérial hosted its annual Rocky Horror Picture Show Halloween Ball, inviting audiences to partake in said toast and toilet–paper throwing mischief. The decades-old Halloween tradition drew thousands of costume-clad Rocky enthusiasts who waited in a line that stretched around the block.
The 1975 cult musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show follows engaged couple Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon) and Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick), who are forced to seek refuge in a mysterious castle after their car breaks down during a rainstorm. They meet Dr. Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry), along with his entourage of eccentric guests and servants, who invite them to the unveiling of his creation, a muscular and supposedly flawless blond man named Rocky.
Every Halloween since the release of the film, cities across the world have joined in the tradition of celebrating the campy classic by screening the film while a cast re-enacts it out on stage. The show is always an interactive experience, with the audience participating in call-backs, throwing props in the air, and cheering on the performers’ provocative antics.
The show was hosted by Tranna Wintour, local comedian, singer, and entertainer who has brought charm and wit to the Rocky stage for three years. Before the performance, Wintour hosted a traditional costume contest, calling preselected showgoers up on stage to be judged according to audience applause.
Just before announcing the start of the show, Wintour spoke on a more serious note. She acknowledged the cultural significance and importance of a film like Rocky Horror to the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, but pointed out a caveat to celebrating the show: While the community praises the show for its representation, language has evolved, and it is “no longer acceptable to use words like transvestite or transexual to describe transgendered people,” she explained.
The show itself was well executed on all fronts. Every performer, whether a main character or a groupie, exuded incredible amounts of energy, feeding the audience’s enthusiasm. There was never a scene during which the audience did not cheer for the comically hypersexual antics of the supporting cast members. At the start of the show, for example, Brad and Janet are driving through the rain. The car’s windshield wipers, however, were coyly portrayed by the suggestively opening and closing legs of a cast member lying on their back.
Heidi Rubin’s performance of Dr. Frank N. Furter was engaging and theatrical. Rubin was consistently synchronized with her character’s actions onscreen, nailing every strut, spin, and facial expression. The Voice, voiced by the show’s director Erin Fagen, drew many of the laughs from the audience. While Fagen paid homage to traditional callbacks, she also included contemporary jokes. “Uh oh, it’s Donald Trump,” Fagen quipped at the moment when Janet began to have sex with Frank N. Furter (believing that it is Brad), and accidentally took off his wig.
True to Rocky Horror tradition, , the audience also joined the actors in performing: During one of the show’s big musical numbers, “Time Warp,” everyone rose from their seats to dance and bellow the lyrics along with the members on stage, creating a deafening atmosphere of excitement.
Rocky Horror is not just about the jokes or musical numbers; it is about the shared experience between audience and performers, and its playfully poignant theme of togetherness and acceptance.
While the Rocky Horror Picture Show tradition is celebrated across the world, only Cinéma Impérial’s production can boast the title of largest Rocky Horror Picture Show event in North America. Montreal’s production has traditionally drawn a large crowd of voguish and welcoming fans. It was this crowd that made this year’s performances so memorable.