VAIL — Local jeweler and studied actor Lance Schober has recently bleached his hair to a peculiar shade of orange yellow.
“This is my third time playing Dr. Frank-N-Furter,” Schober said of the notorious transvestite protagonist in “The Rocky Horror Show.” “It’s all so weird that all of this is for shock value — whatever I can do to make myself totally insane.”
For the next two weekends, the Vail Valley Theatre Company will bring Richard O’Brien’s 1973 cult classic back to life, indulging adult valley audiences in the funny and provocative musical for the third time in four years.
“It’s a wacky, wacky show,” Schober said. “It was so avant garde for its time, and people just fell in love with it. It is still so weird to this day, so it holds up to that bizarre, occult type of show, with an almost underground following.”
Upon opening night, set for Friday, show goers may find that the local following is more above ground than most would assume.
A cult classic
Schober explained how a lot of people are familiar with the show, or the affiliate 1975 Jim Sharman movie, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” He said the stage helps to set a scene that is even more vibrant and in-your-face than the fantastical film.
“People see this over and over and over, and there are all these things that the audience will shout out before the lines from the character are said,” he said. “They come out with these little quips, and a lot of them are pretty obscene.”
The director of the production, Nick Sugar, said audience participation can only get better with small-town community theater.
“I think this cast is going to have a lot of fun with the audience, and I think the audience is going to have a lot of fun with them,” Sugar said. “Also, it’s such a tight community up here, so you know these people — you’ll get to see this group of Vail-ites walking around in fishnets.”
A new direction
Franny Gustafson has been acting with the theater company for about two years, but she is new to the Rocky cast. She plays Janet Weiss, a seemingly straight-edged Sally who is in love with her new finance, Brad Majors. Early in the show, Brad and Janet accidentally become entangled in Frank-N-Furter’s pleasure-seeking scheme, leaving little to bare as the couple’s garments are lost less than half-way through the first act.
“It’s one of the weirdest shows I have ever been in before — but in a good way; it’s nice to shake it up a little bit,” she said.
Gustafson explained how Sugar’s direction has brought a high caliber and fresh angle to the production as a whole.
“It’s been a while since I have worked with a really professional director,” she said. “Some of the questions he asks the cast are perfect, like how to get into the motivations of the characters. He is making some of the actors in this valley so much better — those who I know to be wonderful already — and you see it happening as we rehearse.”
Bart Garton plays Rocky, a blond-haired, tan man-toy brought to life by Frank-N-Furter as a tool to “relieve his tension.” This is Garton’s third time playing Rocky, and he said this year’s production brings in even more overt and comical innuendos.
“The last director was fantastic, and we had a blast doing the show,” Garton said. “But this guy has added a whole new shebang to it; he has added a lot more humor, which is funny and bizarre in the script already, but now there actually some physical comedy in it.”
Janet’s beau, Brad, is played by Robert Wagner, a now-Denver resident who used to live in the Valley and played the role in the past two Rocky productions. Wagner said he is simultaneously working on another show in Denver, but the opportunity to come play Brad was too good to pass up.
“This year, I see us taking this to another level up because Nick is an amazing and award winning director in Denver,” Wagner said. “The reason why I am coming up here is because I have always wanted to work with him.”
Gustafson said the show has really come together in the past couple weeks, setting the tone for what is becoming a highly anticipated experience.
“It’s been really fast,” she said. “We have all been living, thinking, dreaming Rocky Horror the past two weeks. It has made the show have a sense of urgency and excitement, and I think it’s going to be awesome. This is just a great group of people, and I am honored to be a part of it.”
Although this shouldn’t be a family affair, adults who have already seen the production should consider a second, or third, showing.
See it again
“For the folks who have seen it already and say ‘well, we’ve seen this,’ this is so much more off the hook than what it was two years ago — this is insanity,” Wagner said. “We weren’t ready for the valley the first time around, but I don’t think the valley is going to be ready for this show. People who haven’t seen it need to come, and those who came before need to come back.”