The Lion Roars at ASC

I know I have said it before but I ADORE Staunton, Va!

It has a Mayberry like historic downtown and some fantastic restaurants and of course the American Shakespeare Center.

Yesterday I ventured over there from Charlottesville  with a friend, stopping at the bucolic Pollack Winery along the way for a tasting and a relaxing chat on the veranda overlooking gorgeous rolling fields, a pond and the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It was my first visit to Polloack and of the nine wines I tasted I liked the Chardonnay, Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Meritage the best but I am uncertain if those were my exact favorites because I left my tasting notes on the tasting counter- a result of having tasted nine wines on an empty stomach.  We did get some yummy swiss to counter the tipsy effect but they only have french bread to go with it and I need a gluten free option.

Anyway, my companion purchased a bottle of Merlot and off we went to Staunton for dinner and a show.  The first thing I always do when I get to Staunton is stock up on my favorite granola in the world, Kazzies Granola.  You can only get it in Staunton because the guy that makes it lives there and he creates this delectable concoction of dried fruit, oats and seeds (maybe not oats, I don’t have the bag accessible at this time but whatever is in it is all yummilicious goodness).  So we stop into Cranberry’s Natural Foods and Cafe to pick up some Kazzie’s.  Once I am secure in my granola fix we walk a block to enjoy a fabulous dinner at Zynodoa before the show.  Zynodoa is a small version of a chic big city restaurant with food to rival any of the top chef’s around with a menu that features ingredients mostly (if not totally) curated from local farms.  My friend and I split a Mole Hill Bib Salad and the brined then grilled chicken breast.  See descriptions from the menu:

Mole Hill Garden Bibb Salad   8

shenvalley apple batons | oak spring dairy red wine derby
candied pecans | vinegar works shallot vinaigrette

Polyface Brined & Grilled Chicken   25

yellow squash & zucchini pancake | sauteed swiss chard
vinegar works sage gastrique

REVIEW

Fed and happy, we walked the half block to the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Theatre for THE LION IN WINTER the second play in their Summer “Wicked Good” Season.

The play was written by James Goldman and ran on Broadway for something like 83 performances (not many in Broadway lore) in 1966, is the depiction of a typical  family Christmas gathering amongst Franco-Anglo royals in 1183 from the pot Freud view point of the mid-twentieth century.  In other words, these people are MESSED UP, bitter, plotting, manipulating, and longing for love and affection with no glimmer of capacity to either give or accept it.

My take on the action: 

Older man who has taken on a hot young mistress who happens to have been raised in his home as his daughter (modern reference:Woody Allen) is lamenting over the death of his heir and trying to ensure his legacy is protected and that his favorite son, the youngest gets to be king after he dies.  His wife, wants her favorite son to be king instead and the middle child is left to whine about how nobody cares about him (contemporary reference for sibling dynamic: Downton Abbey).  The oldest son had a love affair with the mistress’s brother who happens to be the new King of France and is over for the holiday.  Everybody’s insecurities and egos are exposed as they are each played by the other to gain power, property and a general upper hand. Sounds like fun, right?

What worked for me:

  • Gregory Jon Phelps as the middle son, Geoffrey:  He simply personified that middle child resentment and longing to be special.  His line delivery was spot on in its tone and irony and he was just great in the part.  He totally made the most of it without being obnoxious or upstaging.
  • The costumes:  were beautiful and well chosen for the different characters.
  • Rene Thornton as Philip, King of France:  He is regal yet just as nasty as the rest of the characters.  Thornton plays him with a finesse that makes him stand apart.

Problems:

  • Historical Inaccuracies:  This is the fault of Goldman not ASC. Syphilis is mentioned but my theater buddy pointed out (correctly, I checked) that it was unknown in Europe until over 300 years later when Columbus’ crewmen brought it back with them from the New World. The other is the reference to Christmas trees.  Christmas trees were not a part of English or French Christmas customs until the early 19th century or even in Germany before the 1400’s at the earliest. It is in the script so what are they gonna do?
  • Casting issues: Tracy Hostmyer makes a great Eleanor of Aquitaine throwing out barbs with stealth and working some good chemistry with her King Henry (James Keegan- not his best work, I am sad to say.  I just didn’t buy into him for some reason.) but she looks awfully young for the role. John Harrell as the youngest prince, John- Harrell is a great actor but the boy is supposed to be 16.  There are younger men in the company who may have been better choices for the role this go around. Tracie Thomason as Alais- Thomason lacks voice and tends to deliver almost every line with a  breathy flat cadence that almost drove me insane.  I felt zero chemistry between her and Keegan which is sort of key to the madness of Alais being  played with  like a chess piece.

Overall opinion:

This is a tough play.  The plot twists and turns and the characters along with it.  I can only imagine the cacophony of inner dialog that must go on in the actor’s heads to be dizzying as the show goes on.  It is also relentless in its revelation of the ugliness of human nature (greed and lack of moral compass in particular), a two hour marathon of emotionally charged slings and arrows which can be exhausting to watch. The content is charged as well in this little geographic corner of conservatism adultery, promiscuity, hints of incest, and the possibility of an non-consentual homosexual relationship without much humor to keep the audience from slitting their own wrists in despair by the end.  But it makes sense to produce it as the modern play during the summer season as a prequel to KING JOHN which will be part of the fall season.  It is worth seeing but you might want to space out seeing this alongside THE MERCHANT OF VENICE which is also a hard hitting production bearing no good guys in the end.


 Tracy Hostmyr and James Keegan in THE LION IN WINTER- photo courtesy of American Shakespeare Center
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Petit Pois

 

 

Last weekend before THE MAGIC FLUTE, I enjoyed a delicious dinner at Pettit Pois, one of my favorite restaurants so far in Charlottesville.  I chose it that evening for the following reasons:

  1. It is convenient to the Paramount Theater- practically next door. An easy commute for my mother.
  2. There is an option to sit outside – I adore dining al fresco and watching the ever changing show that moves along the downtown mall.
  3. The inside is cool and casual European- It is all about the mood, yes?
  4. The menu offers few really good selections- simplicity is a bonus where I am concerned.  Too much on the menu and I just get overwhelmed which makes me grumpy and no one wants me to go there- ever.
  5. The quality of the food is consistent and very good. I know whatever I order, whether it is a standard or something seasonal, that it will be DELISH!
  6. It is very reasonably priced.  Appetizers start at $8, Main Courses top out in price at $24.
  7. The have a respectable wine selection.

Between the three of us, me, my Mom and her Sig Oth, (Stephan), we enjoyed the Fresh Pea Soup, Mussels in Creamy White Wine and Vegetable Broth, Mixed Greens Salad with Beets, Pine Nuts and Goat Cheeseand Scallops with Parsnip Puree, Spinach, Panisse and Brown Butter-Lemon Vinaigrette.  All tasty and perfectly prepared.

I think we had a French white to compliment the meal but it is not on the wine list posted on the Petit Pois website (click here).

Always a favorite it gets four out of five star rating from me.                                                                Photo & logo from Google.

****

 

Salsa Dancing in Charlottesville this Friday night

I have started going to a Salsa dance class on Sunday nights at Rapture in Charlottesville and ADORE it!  The Salsa community is fun, spirited and varied ethnically and socially.  There is a lesson from 8 to 9pm and then dancing until whenever (I don’t know because I usually poop out between 10 and 10:30 – I get up so early). Anyway, Butch, the organizer of this party sent an email today  saying that Conjunto Sason will be playing at the Pavilion in C-ville as part of the Friday after 5 concert series.

Click here for information on the concert.

Here is a copy of Butch’s email (I assume it is OK to post since it is a mass email):

Hello everyone,
 
This Friday, July 27th, our own salsa band, Conjunto Sason, will be headlining Friday’s After Five at the Pavillion on Charlottesville’s downtown mall. You can get details and directions at the link below.
 
It’s been years since it started as The Charlottesville Salsa Club Allstars, and the years have been kind to the band! The current combo of musicians may be the best ever, and Oscar knows how to pick songs that make dancers sweat. The music will be hot, and the weather forecast is the same; dress for heat (maybe put on your Cville Salsa Club teeshirt if you have one), also wear shoes for dancing on concrete.
 
Tell your friends.
 
http://www.thenteloswirelesspavilion.com/conjunto-sason
 
See you there!
Butch Bailey
You betcha, Butch!  Thanks for sending this.

Gardening at The Homestead

The Homestead Logo

 

 

GREEN THUMB GETAWAY WITH THE HOMESTEAD RESORT’S 14TH ANNUAL “IN THE GARDEN WEEKEND”

 

Enjoy three days of distinguished lectures and garden tours fashioned in partnership with American Horticulture Society, August 17-19

July 24, 2012, Hot Springs, Virginia – Whatever your skill set, take your gardening to a higher level with the In The Garden Weekend at The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia. The 14th annual event created in partnership with the American Horticultural Society unfolds August 17-19, with lectures, seminars, luncheons, walking tours and exquisite accommodations at the historic Allegheny Mountain resort.

 

The In The Garden Weekend is designed to educate and inspire gardeners of all ages to succeed in environmentally responsible horticulture. Andre Viette, a highly regarded horticulturalist, prolific author, lecturer and host of the “In the Garden” radio show, leads this delightful botanical adventure. Other special guests include Gabriele Rausse, assistant director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello; James Piggott, an expert on grape-growing who produces and sells his own grapes to Charlottesville-area wineries; June Mays, a widely published specialist at garden design; and Ross A. Hotchkiss, director of the American Daffodil Society, who will share insight on the influence flower gardens had in Shakespeare’s literature.

 

In addition, The Homestead’s own green industry expert, Forrest Lee, will lead two walking tours of gardens at the 3,000-acre resort. Look for plants both local and exotic, and learn his tips on how The Homestead’s gardens grow.

 

The “In The Garden Weekend” from Friday-Sunday, August 17-19, at The Homestead includes:

  • Guest room accommodations
  • Breakfast and dinner daily
  • Welcome reception – meet the speakers
  • Seminars and breaks
  • Lunch on Saturday
  • Wine tasting
  • Tour of The Homestead Gardens
  • Membership in the American Horticultural Society
  • Cost $479 (not including taxes and daily 15% resort charge). Rate is per person for two nights based on double occupancy. Two-night minimum stay required. Valid August 17-19, 2012. Based on availability and some restrictions apply.

For more information or to make reservations at The Homestead, please contact (877) 549-9506; or visit www.thehomestead.com.

 

About The Homestead

Since 1766, The Homestead has been recognized as one of America’s most storied resorts, offering unparalleled hospitality and Southern charm in a 3,000-acre setting within the Allegheny Mountains of southwestern Virginia. Renowned for its natural healing springs, The Homestead is distinguished by 483 luxurious guest rooms and suites, 72,000 square feet of meeting space, a wide array of fine and casual dining choices, a world-class spa, three championship golf courses that include one of the nation’s finest mountain courses (The Cascades), the South’s first downhill ski area, a 48-stable Equestrian Center and show ring, one of the top-rated Shooting Clubs and a wealth of other recreational attractions. The resort is currently undergoing a $25 million transformation. The first phase to be completed in 2012 will include the addition of Allegheny Springs, a new family water complex which includes a children’s pool, winterized family pool, whirlpool, sandy beach, three 100-foot water slides, a 400-foot lazy river and private cabanas as well as a new miniature golf course, the Mini Cascades and the tranquil Jefferson Springs spa garden. The second phase to be completed in 2013, will see new dining experiences, including Jefferson’s Grille, and renovations to the interior of the Spa.

 

 

 

The Magic Flute- Highlights

Despite a week of power outages and an un-expected heat wave which rendered humid camping like conditions for guest -housed artists and a four day shut down on set building, Ash Lawn Operas production of THE MAGIC FLUTE turned out to be a stunning testament to the high level of artistic merit the company strives to achieve.  It was magical, entertaining and frankly AWE -SOME!

It was especially fun for me as I had spent hours interviewing staff and artists,  hanging out at rehearsals, trying on costumes and even hosting two of the imported orchestra’s musicians that needed emergency shelter due to a lack of electricity and running water at their host home.  (Click here to link to the story I wrote for C-VILLE.)

The Magritte inspired, John Pollard designed, set of giant hanging frames and light poles entwined with vines was stunning under Stevie Agnew’s flawless lighting and well used by Stage Director, Dan Ragazzi, who created dynamic visuals and the occasional intended joke through adept blocking.

Nuria Carrasco’s fantastical costume designs served to dress the otherwise sparse stage and allow the audience to focus on the performers via lots of sparkly details. Most stunning was her creation for Emily Hindrich’s Queen of the Night, a half black and half white gown made as though halves of two different dresses were sewn together.  The visual result was one person walking onto the set and another walking off.  It was totally cool and completely fitting for Hindrich’s INCREDIBLE singing.  The audience was boondoggled by her amazing ability to sing that crazy coloratura trill and staccato, nailing the high notes with a power equal to a train whistle ( but 1000 times prettier) and giving out equally strong hot chocolatey lower ones.  She ROCKED the house illiciting loud applause and bravo cheers from the audience.  (I heard at least a dozen people marveling over her performance as I left the theater.- Way to go Em!)

Margie Jervis’ clever Wild Animal Costumes worn by local children added to the fantastical feel reminiscent of Julie Taymore’s Lion King animals but on a black and white and much smaller scale.  Particularly marvelous were the two man rhino and the birds.

Other highlight performances were : Jennifer Zetlan as Pamina – her singing voice as clear and true as Pamina’s love for Tamino, Kevin Thompson’s stately Sarastro, David Portillo’s lovely tenor Tomino, and yummiliscious Craig Verm’s Papageno.  Verm so obviously loves what he does for a living it simply exudes that energy in  his performance making it clear that he is not only a fabulous singer but a crowd pleasing actor as well.  He could easily have a career in film, television, radio (but that would be a waste of his good looks) or stage (dramatic or musical theater).

Other notable performances were David Portillo’s steadfast Tamino, Jennifer Zetlan’s pure -voiced and well acted Pamina, Kevin Thompson’s booming bass and regal presence as Sarastro and Emma-Grace Dunbar’s as Papagena.  I must admit, I was jealous (along with every other woman and gay man in the audience) of Dunbar who got to wear the charmingly  flirtatious costume I tried on during my story research PLUS she got to sing a duet with Verm with his arm around her waist. “Sigh.” Well that is all part of the joy of fantasy after all.

THE MAGIC FLUTE  was so well done that I find myself actually looking forward to ALO’s production of THE MUSIC MAN (not my favorite musical) which opens July 29th at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville.

For more info click here.

 

Me in Nuria Carrasco’s costume design for Papagena in Ash Lawn Opera’s production of THE MAGIC FLUTE.

Dirty Barbie tonight at The Corner Store in DC

Sat, 21 Jul,
8 PM

Sun, 22 Jul
4 PM

Theater – “Dirty Barbie and Other Girlhood Tales”
written & performed by Denise Stewart
A return engagement of this hilarious and fearless performer.  If you missed the show earlier
this year, catch it now! Denise Stewart’s one-woman storytelling show explores the author’s
strange southern childhood. With the help of her alter ego, Dirty Barbie, Denise puts the “fun”
back in “dysfunctional” as she spins tales on scarlet fever, scotch over ice, and what happens
when girls gone wild grow older and wiser.  Audience reaction to the premiere in
North Carolina: “Worked the gift shop tonight during the first performance of the show.  I sat
in the gift shop, and could hear people laughing, laughing, laughing. Everyone I spoke to as they left said it was great…” from the Looking Glass Artist Collective blog “Dear Denise
(Denise Laughlin Stewart), I saw Dirty Barbie last night and loved it! To invite an audience
to see you perform your own life on stage is remarkable. Your talent, as a performer and writer,
makes for an engaging, entertaining evening.Your energy and generosity with your audience is
awesome! …” Sam Post
$15 w/ RSVP
$20 at door

Rocky Reviewed

Terence Sullivan and Rocky Horror Cast Anticipate A Night Out to Remember for a Very Long Time

I can remember doing the Time Warp….way back before Jase Smith and his collection of usual suspects got a hold of it and made the older version (the one in the film) look as sensual as a pencil. Yep, the new version of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW delivered a lot of Smith’s re-vamped, ramped up, sexy-for-the-21st-century, vision as discussed in the pre-opening article I wrote for Richmond’s STYLE WEEKLY but some last minute doubts, a confusing set design and a mis-cast keeps this show from being the utter sensation it could be.

Let’s start with something chocolicious in the form of Joy Newsome who plays a sassy, sensual Magenta. Her song styling of the opening number, “Science Fiction Double Feature” lets the regular Frankie Fans (you know who you are) understand that this show will be different from the RHS you know but you can still love it. How could you not?  Newsome seduces with her sexy soulful sound and stripper choreography, a “Jackson” crotch grab coming on the last crescendo.  I was all in.

Then there was a little too much crotch grabbing too early in the play which sort of demystified the shock value of the act and maybe, just maybe jaded the audience a little. We need to be titillate by the crotch grabbing rather than bored by it.  But I digress…

Choreographer Maggie Marlin makes molten moves for the leather and mesh clad groupies making the scene at Frank N Furter’s sex club, The Castle, the setting Smith chose for his upgraded RHS.  They undulate and mock copulate all over the place with some kicks, spins and twists thrown in for good measure, the sexual energy perfectly tempered with utter wildness and/or flowing softness where appropriate. (HaHaHa, I just used the word appropriate in this story.) Particularly inspired is her version of “The Time Warp” so different from the standard now danced at weddings yet so true to the message and lyrics PLUS she mashed it with Madonna’s “Vogue” which totally worked in the “club” atmosphere, providing another type of time warp experience altogether. It was just so hot- I LOVED it.

Michael Hawke as the Narrator brings a mature man hotness to the role. He did play Rocky Horror in his younger days and well, he has still got it.  His Narrator is intense yet funny but towards the end of the show he gets a little too intense, rushes through his lines a bit and falls into a bad habit of dropping some words into unintelligible land.  This issue should be erased as the show continues its run and Hawke gets more comfortable with his ending speeches.

In great voice and kicking ass as the punk rocker version of Riff Raff is Nicholas Alife.

He personifies the tightly wound angst of that music genre and nails that punk styling in his songs.

Aly Wepplo and Nick Shakelford make a great Brad and Janet.  He is nerdy and goofy with a Beavis and Butthead physicality that totally works in the dynamic between his lack of lust to Janet’s looming lust.  In other words, Brad is stuck in a quixotic sophomoric mindset and he never quite goes the distance with his desire for sexual exploration as does …

Wepplo’s sexually awakening, Janet. Janet is much more freewheeling than I have ever seen her. She seems to “get it” almost from the beginning – maybe a tad too much too soon. But  Her lust IS so sincere and particularly well portrayed in during “Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch -A Me” were she is ALL over Chris Hester’s (Rocky Horror) mostly naked bod on top of a bondage table. (Lucky girl!) So that at the end the audience is unsure whether Brad and Janet are really going to go through with the marriage as there is an obvious discrepancy in their sex drives.

Smith’s idea of using drugs as the catalyst for the groupies to worship Frank is a thought provoking concept. As anyone who has any inkling about addiction and how it can drive people perform all manner of degrading acts it makes total sense for Rocky to be formed into Frank’s willing sex slave through a need for Frank’s special alien powder- and to actually enjoy it as many addicts seem to embrace punishment as part of the addiction cycle.  This concept was apparently dropped last week making Hester’s Rocky a brainless idiot, victim without context  – way too docile and complaisant and often cutesy (I love you, Chris, Honey but man it up a little here, please).  Rocky seems to just sort of bumble through the play, often running to cower in his go-go cage rather than simply running out the door of the club. It just doesn’t fly. The statement on gay marriage was also weakened with this extra victimized Rocky as the audience is at a total loss as to why he is participating in it at all, cheapening the idea that two sober consenting people of the same gender should be allowed to be married if they wish (a statement I thought Smith wanted to make- I could be wrong).

Neither did the set make a clear statement.  It was awkward for the actors and the audience as it was often unclear whether characters were in the club or out of the club unless you really knew the story.  But it did have some cool smoked glass doors that allowed for some fun shadow play and the extension built for the show gave some fun added room for Marlin to play with.

But the most painful flaw of the show was a casting gaff in which an obviously talented, Maggie Horan was misused as Columbia. The role is simply incorrect for her as a fresh ingenue type who sings (rather than being a singer who acts).  Columbia as a character is a skanky, drug- loving whore who falls madly in love with Frank, then Frank’s next plaything, Eddie.  She is the codependent female version of Frank, a self deprecating, pleasure seeker looking for approval from people who will fail to give it for long.  Horan is a sweet faced wisp of a thing who is just so adorable that in her provocative costume one might suppose Annie Warbucks fell into the set of CABARET and sang the the sexy title song as if it were “Tomorrow”, all smiles and warm fuzzies.(that might actually be hilarious to see on stage)  The problem is most apparent during “Round Like A Record” a ballad added to the show where Columbia is supposed to be exposing her inner dialog of having her fill of Frank and his emotional abuses.  There were giggles instead of tears form the audience because rather than heart-wrenching the song came off as light  “Oh well-it’ll-be- Ok-golly-gee-ish” kind of way. Her singing voice, though perfectly competent was overshadowed by the powerhouses in the cast adding to the diminishment of the character. But her valiant attempt at filling Columbia’s tap shoes made me sure I would enjoy seeing Horan in a role better suited to her talents.

The stars of the show were clearly the Sullivans.  Terence Sullivan stood out above all on the stage both literally and figuratively.  At something like 6’10” in his spiked out heals he lorded over the other actors. Operatically trained, his clear tenor singing voice boomed over the audience while his manipulation of the character produced a varied and engaging Frank N Furter.  Scantily clad in Holly Sulllivan’s (no relation) magnificently tawdry costume designs he makes Frank his own, really blossoming in the second act with “Wise up, Janet Weiss” and invoking tears from several audience members with his moving rendition of “I’m Coming Home”, sung while decked in a ostrich plume collar, gently swaying on a swing. (I get choked up just thinking about it.)

If there is ever a dull second in the show one can marvel over Ms. Sullivan’s costumes which look like a parade of this season’s hottest S&M collection. Lots of strappy, meshy, leathery, spiky little nothings up there on stage making for good food for naughty thoughts.

One other stand out moment that must be mentioned is another added song sung by Shakelford called, “Once in a While” where three band members come onto the stage to accompany him.  It is just a really fun moment.  The scruffy sweet band members in contrast to this half dressed guy singing a tender ballad- you get it.

Overall there is much more to marvel over in this show than to gripe about.  It is not perfect but it is really good and totally fun for RHS virgins and sluts. It is the fifth, and on of  the best, of Jase’s Naughty Firehouse Summer Musical Theater Camp for Wayward Actors productions so get your leather on and go see it.  Besides, Smith challenges us fans to stretch our perceptions of the story while indulging us in a little traditional Time Warp Action at the end. Why would you want to miss out on that?

Who knows you might get so hot and bothered with this sexy summer sizzler that you would be inspired to explore a little more, more, more, more in some intimate areas of your ….life.

Sullivan brings it home in fishnets,fringe and ostrich plumes                                                                     photos by Jay Paul

Rocky Horror: De-Camped and Re-Vamped

Below is a story I wrote for STYLE WEEKLY about the Firehouse Theatre Project’s upcoming production of  THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW.

THE FIRST LINE OF THE STORY WAS SUPPOSED TO BE: “I CAN REMEMBER DOING THE TIME WARP”  IN HOMAGE TO THE INFAMOUS “TIME WARP” SONG IN THE SHOW BUT IT WAS EDITED TO BE WHAT IT IS NOW.

I AM SHIVERING WITH AN-TI-CI-PATION FOR TOMORROW’S OPENING NIGHT!!

Camp Revamped

Firehouse Theatre Project stages a darker, sexier version of “Rocky Horror.”

BY MARY BURRUSS

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RELATED EVENTS

click to enlargeLab coats are so 1975. On stage at the Firehouse Theatre, you'll find Dr. Frank N. Furter (Terence Sullivan) and his willing victim Rocky (Chris Hester) in leather and spikes. - Adam Ewing

  • Adam Ewing
  • Lab coats are so 1975. On stage at the Firehouse Theatre, you’ll find Dr. Frank N. Furter (Terence Sullivan) and his willing victim Rocky (Chris Hester) in leather and spikes.

I can recall doing the “Time Warp” for the very first time. I was 15 when I saw “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in the late ’70s, and it changed my life. The film was a titillating thrill ride with a message of sexual acceptance delivered in a palatable mock-shock-horror format — perfect for those of us at the precipice of our sexuality. Fast-forward to the desensitized 21st century, in which grandmothers dance the “Time Warp” at weddings and the film is telecast every Halloween. Where can a Transylvanian find a thrill these days?

Enter Jase Smith, director of the Firehouse Theatre Project’s production of “The Rocky Horror Show.” Smith aims to give the show a jolt that should reawaken audiences to the story and redefine the parameters of acceptable naughtiness. “I feel that being shocking is part of getting those messages across,” Smith says.

Smith and his design team — musical director Leilani Giles, choreographer Maggie Marlin, set and lighting designer David McLain and costumer Holly Sullivan — are creating an edgier, dirtier world, with some new material added to excite the jaded. Dr. Frank N. Furter lords over a remote sex club rather than a castle. The costumes have been upgraded from bustiers, pumps and fishnets to all-out sado-masochism gear with lots of leather, straps and spikes. Gone is the electrified, rainbow ritual to create the monster. “In this version, Rocky is not manufactured, he is created,” Smith says. “He comes into the club and is converted into Frank N. Furter’s submissive through drugs and bondage. He is a willing participant.”

Inspired by recordings from the 2003 album “The Rocky Horror Punk Rock Show” and the new Broadway cast soundtrack, Giles has updated some of the music as well. Two songs have been added: “See You Round Like a Record” (recorded by Little Nell Campbell, who played Columbia in the film) and the theme song from the Rocky Horror follow-up, “Shock Treatment.”

Cult devotees know that throwing rice, toast and toilet paper are de rigueur at midnight showings of the film. Not at the Firehouse, please. In order for audiences to focus on the story, Smith requests that props be left at home. “It’s really important that people understand that this isn’t camp,” says Terence Sullivan, who plays Furter. “This show intelligently tells a story that is emotionally, politically and sexually charged. People must connect to it in the context of now.”

The result is a peculiar alchemy of emotion and titillation. “Foremost, I want people to rediscover a reason to cry when Frank dies,” Smith says. “And secondly, I want people to go away and think about visiting Taboo and maybe buy some handcuffs.” S

“The Rocky Horror Show” runs July 19-Aug. 1, Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. at the Firehouse Theatre, 1609 W. Broad St. Tickets are $28 for general admission, $26 for seniors and $14 for students. For information call 355-2001 or visit firehousetheatre.org.

Candela Event in Richmond

Friday, July 20th, 7pm-11pm, Candela will host the UnBound! gala fundraiser event. Get ready for the party of the summer! This event will raise funds to purchase select works from theUnBound! exhibition. Purchased works will be featured in Candela’s newly-founded Candela Collection. The mission of the Candela Collection will be to support photographers through the purchase and collection of their work while also actively pursuing future opportunities to donate said work to notable art institutions.Think music! Dancing! Raffle! Door prizes! Southern Fare!

Come enjoy live indie-folk sounds from Son of the Sea, then later the notorious DJ Rattan (Rei Alvarez of Bio Ritmo) will spin you into euphoria. So wear your dancing shoes!

Besides beer + wine, we’ll have southern fixins for hungry fingers, including a one-of-a-kindUnBound! donut from Dixie Donuts.

Raffle tickets are $10. Anyone may purchase one or more raffle tickets, whether they can make it to the event or not. Here’s a growing list of raffle items:

  • Daniel Crawford, aka The Woodsman, antler sculpture from Quirk Gallery
  • 1950’s Aurora Borealis necklace + earrings from Bygones
  • Selection of Mangini Studio Series images
  • A portrait session with photographer Terry Brown
  • New artwork from Gordon Stettinius
  • Holga cameras
  • Gift certificate from Lift Café

Event tickets are $35 and will be sold in advance and at the door. But ticket quantities are limited! So stop by the gallery or call us at 804.225.5527 to purchase tickets. Or stick a check in the mail to: Candela Books + Gallery, 214 W. Broad Street, Richmond, VA, 23220.

See you there!

It’s All About the Hair Spray

A spotlight pops up on a large prop in the center of a darkened stage.  As the spot opens it reveals a bed standing on its foot rather than its legs so that the audience gets the illusion of staring down from the ceiling of Tracy Turnblad’s bedroom at her smiling, Good Morning Baltimore face. It is a new day in in 1962 in The Crab Cake Capital of the World, and Tracy is ready to face it head on because she is confident that whatever happens her ratted up hair will stay in place thanks to her…

HAIR SPRAY

brilliantly cast and directed by Lydia Horan retains all the irreverence and crude humor that its writers (Mark O’Donnell & Thomas Meehan) and lyricists (Scott Wittman & Marc Shaiman) intended while being true to the cause behind the story with believable characters. The message, prejudice is unacceptable, is delivered with a spoonful of sweetening sarcasm and shallowness that makes it palatable for the masses.

Our unlikely heroine, Tracy (Christina Ramsey), a charming chunk of a lower middle class girl, who spends almost as much time in detention for her big hairdo as she does watching The Corny Collins teen dance Show (every afternoon), decides that black kids and white kids should be able to dance together on TV. Change is initiated as she pursues her personal and societal dreams.

Ramsey is a great little Tracy who understands the power of being in the moment. She is particularly hilarious during “It Takes Two” where Corny Collins Show’s dream boat teen idol, Link Larkin (Keith Wilson- who was great!) croons to her live on TV.  Ramsey goes practically coma-like over his attentions coming to at the last to make a dynamic duet.

So much of the cast is so perfect in their stage parts that it is too much to talk about but highlights include; Koli Cutler as Corny Collins (couldn’t wait to write that this morning- I simply adore alliteration), Peter DeMartino as Edna Turnblad (the part made famous by the infamous Divine in the John Waters film version. DeMartino is Fabulous BTW), Katherine Gadzinski as Amber Von Tussle, Gare Galbraith as Wilber Turnblad (the perfect man to play opposite of DeMartino), Ida Yonas as Little Inez, Basil Ward (Soooo smooth! He is a young talent to watch!) as Seaweed Stubbs and Cathy Ames as Motormouth Maybelle (especially singing “I Know Where I’ve Been”).

But the show stealer is clearly Natalie Fehlner as Penny Pingleton. She is so believably dorky as Tracy’s BFF, her mannerisms and line delivery so honest she just ran away with it.  Her characterization and transformation simply personified the arch of the story- embracing desegregation makes her free.

Problems with the show on opening night included some missed light and set cues and some off key singing of at least three of the main characters- they know who they are and so I won’t mention names because this is (though it is so good I often forget) community theater and they all tried really hard to sing it well though at one point I was reminded of the Pierce Brosnan in the film version of MAMA MIA debacle. And there was a major prop malfunction during Edna and Wilber’s  “You’re Timeless to Me” number which the DeMartino and Galbraith, to their credit, handled with great aplomb which just made the mishap an enjoyable part of the show.

BUT

Garret Queen and Kerry Moran’s set is beautiful offering a colorful and functional environment for the actors to do their work and creating a space for a clever time referencing slide display.  Mary Cassell’s and Casey Jones’ costumes were historically accurate and fun (I would do all manner of bad things to have one of those red sequined dresses worn by the chorus for my own.) But what makes this show is Daphne D’Earth Latham’s hair and make-up designs.  I mean, perfect hair, is after all, what its all about.

Which brings up the question why Tracy’s hair remains in the ratted up-do by the end of the show.  If the hair styles represent the mindset aka: stiff, motionless hair stands for a stiff uptight society why did Horan choose to leave Tracy’s hair stiff and trained at the end of the show rather than have Tracy display her rebellion via the means by which she makes her biggest personal statements- her hair? I was waiting for that teased up, uptight symbol to be let loose along with society and flow freely and naturally but it didn’t happen in this production.

Oh Well, it was still wonderful and good food for thought in our current political climate where issues of inequality still challenge us to stand up and initiate change -whether we reflect that via our hairstyle or not.

For more information on Live Arts production of HAIR SPRAY click here.

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