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Warning: Beware whiplash, ghosts, transvestites and aliens - oh my!

JACOB KONST/Arizona Daily Wildcat
"The Rocky Horror Show" - Musical theatre senior David Olsen stars in "The Rocky Horror Show," presented by the UA School of Theatre Arts and Arizona Repertory Theatre, and directed by Richard T. Hanson, which will be performed Wednesday to May 1.
By Lauren Hillery
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 7, 2005
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After 30 years, the cult classic "The Rocky Horror Show" is still going strong: transvestites, aliens, hunchback and all. For the first time in Tucson history, the Arizona Repertory Theatre presents this legendary, interactive piece of theater.

Director Richard Hanson's experience with this musical dates back to its original showing with Tim Curry, which he saw in Los Angeles at The Roxy Theater. He has wanted to do the production for years, but this year all the pieces seemed to come together.

"It was important to do the production that is specifically geared toward the university," Hanson said.

For those who don't already know the plot, "Rocky Horror" is about two average American kids, Janet and Brad, who encounter Dr. Frankenfurter and his castle after their car breaks down. What follows is the ride of their lives while experiencing a bizarre cast of characters in Frankenfurter's castle.

Hanson's friend and UA alumnus Joel Young agreed to leave his lighting director position for Bette Midler's tour, to work on "The Rocky Horror Show." Hanson also recruited Tom Benson, senior designer, and Patrick Holt, costume designer, to create his ideal production crew.

"It's been dreamy working with them," Hanson said.

Hanson believes the key to making this production a success has been not trying to duplicate the original. For example, they're adding more color by adding '80s club-kid characters.

"Don't try to do what's already been done. Find your own way with it. That's what we've done," Hanson said.

The original theme of the play deals with classic '50s and '60s horror and the traditional plot of alien films. Hanson puts a more realistic spin on horror, by incorporating a video of modern day horrors including Sept. 11 footage.

This incorporation has made him realize something more worldly.

"The real horror is in Rwanda and Somalia where people are starving. We really don't have to look past our own planet to find horror," Hanson said. "You end up finding elements (in the play) you didn't know existed."

But the play does keep most of the traditional crazy antics that go along with "Rocky Horror," including audience interaction.

"You would be crazy not to expect it or dismiss it. It has environmental theater that doesn't exist anywhere else," Hanson said.

To play into this atmosphere, audience participation kits will be sold prior to each performance for $5. The kits will include rubber gloves, penlights and instructions.

Hanson believes this show, which he emphasizes more as a rock 'n' roll show, has something to offer everyone and messages that are multigenerational. Today's generation sees it at The Loft Cinema, the generation before them had the movie and the generation before them saw it on stage.

"It crosses so many generations it's ridiculous. It speaks to generations of people who thought they were disenfranchised. It's more than just a movie, it's about being accepted for who you are," Hanson said.

Although the play may have been subversive for its time, its shock value, particularly with the transvestite character, does not disturb audiences today as much as it did in the past.

"Tim Curry created a sexual character and now we don't have a problem with that," Hanson said. "We still love outrageous over-the-top behavior of people who can make us laugh at what is regular and normal."

If the outrageousness of a transvestite is not the kicker, it's the elaborate and highly technical set that will floor audiences.

This is due in part to the hard work of Young , who obtained $100,000 in concert lighting style equipment donation from Robey America.

"We wanted 'Rocky Horror' to be more like a rock show than a musical. With traditional lights that don't move, you're much more limited," Young said.

To contribute to his lighting design, the set includes two hanging video screens, trap doors, a moving stage and a motorcycle. Also, most of the play takes place on open floor space in front of the designed stage.

Joseph Topmiller, a musical theatre sophomore who plays Brad, said the combination of set, actors and directors in this show has made it one of his best experiences.

"We have a moving set, two elevators, phenomenal costumes and some of the best singers and actors I've been blessed to work with," Topmiller said.

"You've never seen anything like this before, especially at the UA."

Perhaps, "Rocky Horror" should come with a warning, because Topmiller describes the "Rocky Horror" experience like being on a roller coaster.

"The atmosphere on stage can't be put into words, it is just priceless. People are going to walk out of this show with... It's one of those things that you just have to see in person to fully understand its power," Topmiller said.

"The Rocky Horror Show" will run preview showings on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. and Friday and Monday at 7:30 p.m. Evening performances run Wednesday through April 16, 21-23 and 28-30 at 7:30 p.m. and matinee performances on April 17, 23,24 and May 1 at 1:30 p.m. There will be two late showings at 11 p.m. on April 15 and 29.

Tickets cost $29 for senior citizens, $27 for UA employees, $21 for students and $20 for preview showing tickets. Tickets can be purchased through the UA Fine Arts Box Office by calling 621-1162.

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