“The Rocky Horror Show” – Nearly Naked Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ August 25, 2008


Nearly Naked Theatre, Little Theatre at Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

Valley theater has come so far in such a short time. We see a wide diversity of local productions and national tours. A few weeks ago, a smashing world premiere musical, “Unbeatable,” astonished and now comes Nearly Naked Theatre’s raucously vibrant new production of “The Rocky Horror Show.” It’s the most successful show in the alternative theater’s ten year history. They have a blast with a delightfully campy and spirited staging.

The stage version premiered before the now popular cult film. An unsuspecting young couple, Brad and Janet, find their way to Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s whacked out castle. In this version, the crazy doctor comes from outer space where he learned about the earth by watching old movies on TBS. He’s created the ideal man, Rocky. As Brad and Janet arrive, the doctor celebrates his creation’s debut with a big party for the weird hangers-on who live with the doctor.

The musical is loaded with wild rock dances and bizarre but swinging songs. It’s all great fun, especially in such a grand production. As staged by Tim Shawver, the show emphasizes unending energy, verve, and pizzazz as it relies on outlandish excesses for fun.

Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s is a “sweet transsexual, transvestite.” And Damon Dering, who plays the role smashingly, interprets the character as a mincing drag queen who imitates Mae West complete with outrageous frocks and stiletto heeled shoes.

Dering is outstanding as the gay doctor who creates a stunningly attractive and physically alluring Rocky to meet his sexual needs. In a former life, Dering was a local drag queen so he has the routines down perfectly and he is a deliciously funny caricature who is a hoot to watch.

Dering isn’t the only stellar cast member. The entire ensemble brilliantly follows the staging’s fanciful extremes. Kelvin Harper plays the conservative Brad with inwardly introspective irreverence. Anny Franklin, an alternate Janet, is also hysterical as a conservative character who, when her hidden desires are unchained, explodes with merry sexual abandon.

Terre Steed has a wild time as the doctor’s servant, Riff Raff, Kevin Frei is the perfect Rocky as he parades around in the scantiest jock strap, while J. C. Carlisle makes two small roles hysterically comic. A rockin’ quartet gives the upbeat score splashy sparkle, while the colorful set and extravagantly bizarre costumes carry through perfectly on the wonderful off-center look.

“The Rocky Horror Show” is not for conventional-loving theatergoers, but if want to have fun and adore campy, sexy humor, this delightful show will entertain richly. It plays through September 13. For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151.

Grade: B