TAMPA — Well, it turns out you can do the Time Warp again. And again. And even with live actors onstage instead of celluloid ones.
And it won't lose its appeal at all.
The Halloween season got under way last weekend with performances of The Rocky Horror Show, the stage musical by Richard O'Brien (book, music and lyrics) that spawned a million midnight screenings where the audience wears black eyeliner and pink boas, talks back to the movie and tosses rice around the theater.
Here are a few things you should know about the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center production at the Jaeb Theater:
How's Frank? Every actor who plays Frank-N-Furter, the transvestite transsexual Transylvanian who orchestrates Rocky Horror, must be measured against the original, Tim Curry. And Jesse Luttrell, the long-legged star of this production, measures up nicely. He makes a series of fabulous entrances — the whole show basically amounts to one fabulous entrance after another — in costumes ranging from a vampire's cape to an ensemble of black corset with fishnet hose, chunky heels and a string of pearls. Luttrell rocks out in a dance number, I Can Make You a Man, and displays some wit in Wise Up Janet Weiss. His Judy Garland moment comes in I'm Going Home.
Why the stage show is more fun than the movie: Many of the performers can actually sing, unlike Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick in the movie. The band, led by Stan Collins on funky keyboards, is great in Time Warp.
Good parts: Karla Hartley channeling Meat Loaf in Hot Patootie. The Usherettes (Alison Burns, Nadeen Holloway) and Phantoms in Science Fiction Double Feature. The Joe Maddon specs worn by Brad (Michael Indeglio). The video design (by Hartley) featuring clips from Forbidden Planet, Doctor X and other flicks. Joseph P. Oshry's vivid lighting. The childishly debauched atmosphere established by co-directors Hartley and Rick Criswell.
Not so good parts: Tedious philosophizing by the Narrator (Criswell). Overacting by Riff-Raff (Dean Maroulakos). Any scene with Dr. Scott (Hartley).
Madonna strikes again: In Burns' crotch-grabbing choreography.
Unanswered question: Why (and how) is Janet (Heather Krueger) reading a newspaper, in the dark, when Brad's car gets a flat tire near the castle?
Best bods: Rocky, the Muscle Beach monster, played by Hayden Milanes — plus you've got to love his silver sneakers. Krueger's Janet, buxom in bra and slip, got lusty catcalls the night I was there from a group of fratboys who apparently wandered in from a strip joint.
Best audience participation: When Janet, lasciviously eyeing Rocky, murmurs that "I don't like men with too many muscles," the audience yells, "Liar!"
Worst deal: The prop bag costs $5 and doesn't contain rice or a squirt gun.
Why you should go: Finally, a show where a guy in the audience can wear a dress and pumps and not get a second glance.
John Fleming can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8716.