The Rocky Horror Show at Scottsdale Desert Stages -- The Time Warp Again, Again

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See also: Oh, the Rocky Horror! The Time Warp, Again: Robrt Pela tracks the cult classic that won't go away The Rocky Road to Excess: Here's how a 1973 London stage play changed your life

It may seem odd, if you're accustomed to a shadow cast, to see Rocky Horror performed by live human beings without a giant screen full of Tim Curry flickering above their heads. And frankly, if you're just sitting there watching a musical, you are free to notice that this is a terrible, terrible play, writing-wise.

The execution: The script might hold up a little better if I could ever understand the lyrics, which contain some exposition. And after hearing three diverse ensembles spit them out and doing a bit of research, I realize it's creator Richard O'Brien's fault that I can't understand them -- "Rose-tint my world," for example, is a lovely phrase but not something you can set to a bopping beat and expect anyone to make out.

Then there's Eddie, who is the most unsupported deus ex machina ever. And the original mission -- never mind that we never know what it was; how could it have been better than "Give yourself over to absolute pleasure"?

Whatever. This show's durability in the U.S. is a product of how well it met a perfect storm of need when the Baby Boomers took our watered-down rebellion to all those little art houses in the middle of the night. If it hadn't been fun then, it might not be fun now. But it was, and it is. And Desert Stages' Rocky shows off a lot of talent as well as fun, but whether you're a "virgin" or an old fan, you could probably use a wee primer before we get to the review.

It helps to have some grounding in how subversive all the crossdressing and glam and sexual openness (with, really, just a soupçon of horror and maybe three soupçons of sci-fi) was in 1975. Geez, Elton John had only been a star for three years. And Rocky's still considered by some people to be a little on the alternative and raunchy side for a community theater, but it isn't, really. Though it's not for children.

Here are a couple of good places to bone up, as it were, if you wish. What's important to know about the 21st century is that you typically can't just carry a bag of crap into a theater or a movie house (or any other public place, really) and start throwing it -- presenters sell reasonably priced prop bags, and it's still hella fun. Though the presence of glow-sticks during "(There's a Light) Over at the Frankenstein Place" is the very definition of a time warp.

What's important to know about watching the musical as opposed to the film is that a) the script is a bit different and b) sometimes people in the audience act like they're just watching a musical. But you shouldn't feel embarrassed either way.

At Desert Stages, audience costumes are encouraged, as well as shoutouts, callbacks, whatever you grew up calling them, but it's not a huge, huge thing. The band helps out with the five or six lines that are actually funny. Props purchased at the theater are allowed at the 10:30 p.m. Friday performances only, where there's also a lot more yelling and extended, skillful virgin sacrifice, with assistance from the charming members of Midnight Mayhem, the shadow cast from AMC Deer Valley 30's monthly-ish screenings. (You do get half-price props at DST if you're in costume.)

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Julie has written for the Night & Day events calendar section since 2005. As a student at Arizona State, she received the Glendon and Kathryn Swarthout Creative Writing Award and the Theatre Medallion of Merit.
Contact: Julie Peterson