CaneStage Theatre Company revives Rocky Horror Picture Show for Halloween weekend

Cast members of the Rocky Horror Picture Show perform in a show in the Shalala Ballrooms this past weekend.
Cast members of the Rocky Horror Picture Show perform in a show in the Shalala Ballrooms this past weekend. Photo credit: Jordan Julien

The CaneStage Theatre Company rocked the stage at the Shalala Ballroom with a fresh rendition of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, keeping with the company’s long-running Halloween tradition.

Two showings were held on Oct. 28 and Oct. 29, after last year’s modified version. Many of the student actors were eager to return to the musical with more relaxed regulations after the COVID-19 lockdown.

“We had to do a very weird, abridged version and no one liked that as much,” Bryce Leonard, a second-year student at UM studying architecture who played the role of Riff Raff, said. “So being able to come out and do this, it was so special, especially coming back after COVID.”

Silky corsets, fishnet tights and masks that donned the iconic red-parted lips of the rock musical helped to set the tone for the eccentric world. As the 1975 film played on a projector screen, the actors replicated the absurd acts of the movie live for their audience.

The audience, in turn, used the “audience participation” script for the show, which included members jeering obscenities and jokes around the dialogue of the musical. Many audience members were also provided with a goodie bag of props including party hats, bubbles and party horns, along with a list of cues to use throughout the show.

“What really makes it special is there’s ample room for improvisation,” David Caldarella, who played the role of Dr. Frank-n-furter, said. “Half of the stuff that happened in it didn’t happen last night and probably wouldn’t happen any other night. It’s so fun to play off of what the audience gives you.”

The cast also underwent a unique rehearsal process for the show, according to Caldarella, given that much of the choreography came together closer to the show’s debut. Rehearsals without a live audience also pushed actors to work harder on improvisation given that the energy of an audience was typically absent.

“I think because we love the show so much, we were just willing to work with whatever we had,” Vivica Cheemakoti, who played Eddy and Dr. Scott, said. “Whatever kind of obstacles came our way, we wanted to do the best that we could because we’re so dedicated to the show.”

After two hours of screams, laughs and chaos, the production finally drew to a close, with both the cast and the audience breaking into a full rendition of the Time Warp, one of the musical’s most well-known numbers.

“It was a really great opportunity,” Cheemakoti said. “I really love this musical and everything that it stands for…I know that through this musical so many people have found a home and a community, people who feel like misfits. One of the best opportunities I’ve had was to be able to do this show.”