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Troupe turns Rocky Horror into rock concert

By Jake Bews, October 27, 2015 —
Since its theatrical release in 1975, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has become a cult phenomenon. Even though it was panned by critics after its initial release, midnight screenings of the film,complete with costumes and audience participation, have brought the story back to prominence.

Forty-four years later, productions of the play still show around the world. The Alberta Playwrights’ Network is presenting their version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Evergreen Theatre on Friday, Oct. 30.

The play, known for its catchy and overtly sexual songs, will be performed by a live band. Executive director Trevor Rueger says he’s excited to bring a different approach with live music.

“We’re doing a live concert version. We’ll be doing the play all the way to the end, singing all the songs and doing all that with a live band,” Rueger says. “It’s gonna be a big huge fun rock ‘n’ roll concert with a play stuck in the middle of it.”

Rueger will perform the music with his cover band, the Ed Wailins. He says he first thought of producing the show about 15 years ago, but the idea never took off until now.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is popular for its scandalous musical numbers. // Nancy Jane Reid

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is popular for its scandalous musical numbers. // Nancy Jane Reid

“As our band was coming to an end and everyone was moving on, we all had this crazy notion that it was too bad because we’ve always wanted to do a live concert version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” Rueger says. “So about three months ago, I thought, ‘let’s see if we can get the band back together and do this.’”

The play remains popular among dedicated fans to this day, attracting sell-out audiences every year and surpassing the science fiction B-films it was based on in popularity. Rueger thinks its catchiness and offbeat subject matter contribute to its lasting appeal.

“It’s a musical, which I think is a great attraction,” he says. “I think the play was so wild and outrageous for its time that its managed to keep all of that camp and sass and the zaniness which has given it its cult following since then.”

There’s always a fear that iconic shows can’t live up to their legacy when brought to local stages, but Rueger’s enthusiasm for the show smothers any uncertainty about the production’s quality.

“The big challenge has just been not having too much fun,” Rueger says. “We phoned up a bunch of our friends, some of whom had done a musical before in some way, shape or form, and theywere all thrilled to come on board. It’s been a great group of people to work with and everybody is wickedly smart and super talented. We’ve just been having a blast.”

Live-action productions of Rocky Horror must compete with showings of the film, which are commonplace around Halloween. But Rueger gives a convincing argument for seeing the play.

“Come to ours because ours is in 3D. We’re not only shot in high-definition 3D because we’re live, but we can actually hear what [the audience] is saying so we can shout back.”
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is showing at Evergreen Studios on Friday, October 30th at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $35 at albertaplaywrights.squarespace.com.

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