Dave Rice 12:38 p.m., May 21
Decades ago, the best show in town was in Ocean Beach, Saturday at midnight. The Strand Theatre screened The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The audience, dressed as the various characters, carried on a dialogue with the dialogue. Bics flicked, rice flew, and the place went wild. Charger games never had this energy.
The movie urges us "insects" — i.e. repressed humanity — to unleash our inner Epicurean. Out it came at the Strand like Halloween on steroids.
Brad Majors and Janet Weiss are engaged but don't go in for "heavy petting" (which, these days makes The RHPS a period piece: August 9, 1974, in fact, since Richard Nixon's giving his farewell address on their car radio). They come to a lightning-laced castle where the guests do the "Time Warp" and the host, Frank N. Furter, is "a sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania."
Fans who remember the Strand, or those who go to the Ken or La Paloma these days, may find the Old Globe's live version a taste that's tough to acquire. The band blasts loud and well. Donyale Werle's Gothic set and Emily Rebholz's costumes drip with decadence. But the performances, when compared to the movie, seem...what? Too polished? Too show-bizzy?
In the movie, the great Tim Curry cavorts like an androgynous Greek god. He has two distinct voices: a raucous boom and, often in the next sentence, a delicate, Fay Wray timbre. At the Globe, Matt McGrath has neither. More bitchy than butch, he sings Frank's songs just as songs, not as revelations of character.
McGrath has an unenviable task, since RHPS purists will compare him to Curry, the gold standard. McGrath makes up, in part, with funny, caustic asides, but is neither as brash, nor as vulnerable, as Curry.
The evening moves from the movie, in Act 1, to a musical with expanded production numbers and choreography (and fewer chances for the crowd to respond) in Act 2.
To a person, the cast has powerful voices. But in their numbers, the performer comes first, not the character. They also convey a performer's need for approval (on occasion, Jason Wooten's Riff Raff smiles, something eternally creepy Richard O'Brien's Riff Raff would never do in the movie). The film's characters have no need for our approval. They got where they are by swearing it off.
Best of show: David Andrew Macdonald's Narrator/Dr. Scott. Suave and subtle, he has a nice rapport with the audience. And his timing, improvised with the feedback, is excellent.
All that said, I've never seen the Old Globe Theatre more energized. The first-nighters, dressed as Rocky or Columbia or Frank and shouting to their heart's content, made the show.