There are two kinds of people destined to see this revival of “Rocky Horror Show”: those addicted to Richard O’Brien’s cult-classic musical and those interested in how David Ar-quette looks in a bustier and pumps. Happily, both groups will be gratified by director Dennis Erdman’s stylish, end-lessly entertaining staging of the camp hit. Granted, O’Brien’s show isn’t much once you get past the glitz, but when the glitter is this good, who needs substance?
Aficionados of this musical (and its even more famous cine-matic spawn) know the show inside out, so those less familiar with the material should expect verbal zingers from both sides of the fourth wall. And depending on the crowd, there might even be, quite literally, dancing in the aisles. Yet this is all part of the fun, to be embraced by audiences.
Essentially a loopy, homoerotic sendup of the sci-fi and monster movies so popular in the 1950s, “Rocky Horror” boasts a plot as thin as a lace teddy. Two innocents right out of “Ozzie and Harriet,” Brad (Timothy A. FitzGerald) and Janet (Lacey Kohl), become stranded one dark, stormy night. With nowhere else to go, they approach a castle, get invited in by Riff-Raff (Donnie Kehr) and are ultimately introduced to the master of the house, Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter (Arquette), a sweet transvestite if ever there was one. The couple, it turns out, has arrived at a most propitious moment, for Frank is about to give life to his greatest creation, Rocky (the hunky James Carpinello). Before the night is over, the good doctor will also have introduced Brad and Janet to a variety of illicit pleasures their square sensibilities are quite unprepared for.
But the story — which is often advanced by a rigid English narrator (the incomparable Paxton Whitehead) — is only an excuse for such toe-tapping musical numbers as Brad’s “Damn It Janet,” Frank’s “Sweet Transvestite” and the ensemble’s “Time Warp.” That the show’s three most memorable numbers come almost in succession is certainly a weakness, but “Rocky Horror’s” broad comedy never lets up, and the musical loses steam only near the very end.
The momentum is generated and carried primarily by Ar-quette’s Frank, and the thesp’s unselfconscious, richly charismatic performance is this show’s heart. Though some had doubts about the actor in this part, he confounds expectations by embracing his drag role with almost rabid gusto. For an evening at least, memories of Tim Curry, the role’s creator, are certain to be banished.
The rest of the cast is without flaw, even if no one else can compete with Arquette’s boundless energy and ebullience. Of these, Whitehead’s Narrator is the most polished, his crisp diction and wry glances ideally suited to this show’s singular sensibility. Eric Leviton also does well as the droll, wheelchair-bound Dr. Scott, and Kohl’s Janet and FitzGerald’s Brad are appropriately fresh faced. The singing, though not memorable, never disappoints.
Yael Pardess’ and Cara T. Hoepner’s plain gun-metal-gray set serves its multifarious functions effectively, but it’s Todd Oldham’s costumes, hair design and makeup that make the bigger impression. Though Janet and Brad seems dressed right out of the latest J. Crew catalog, Frank’s elaborate getup would satisfy even Cher. And Rocky’s blue hot pants (with enhanced crotch) and white go-go boots are amusingly diverting.
Keeping spirits high throughout is the live band, directed by the protean Lawrence O’Keefe, who doubles on keyboards. Under Erdman’s brisk direction, the entire show, slight as it is, glides along smoothly, its chief aim of outrageous fun successfully accomplished.