Ladue News Review: The Rocky Horror Show

Luke Steingruby wears little more than a smile (but it’s a nice smile) as Frank N. Furter’s lust-inducing and surprisingly thoughtful creation, the title character

Stray Dog’s ‘Rocky Horror Show’ Is a Risque and Bawdy Valentine to Cheap Sci-Fi Flicks: Musical Review

Soon they are welcomed by the lord of the manor, Dr. Frank N. Furter. He’s a bit strange, as are the maid Magenta and a young woman named Columbia. Soon enough, Brad and Janet learn that a delivery boy named Eddie is held captive there and are horrified when Furter hacks Eddie to death.

That’s just the beginning of their misadventures at the castle. After Furter reveals that he has created a superior creature named Rocky for his own erotic pleasures, Brad and Janet are sent to separate bedrooms for the night, where they are introduced to the sexual shenanigans taking place among the denizens of the castle, led by Furter.

When Dr. Scott unexpectedly arrives unexpectedly in search of his missing nephew Eddie, Riff Raff and Magenta warn the visitors to leave the castle, which actually is an alien space ship, as they return to their planet against the wishes of Frank N. Furter. The story’s narrator wraps up the bizarre tale as the usherette returns to her chores in the empty theater.

Highlights: Just in time for Halloween, Stray Dog Theatre revives the cult classic, The Rocky Horror Show, and does so in a big, splashy and rowdy manner. Associate artistic director Justin Been pulls out all the stops with this grand and glorious paean to the horror and sci-fi flicks of half-a-century ago.

Been and company add a heavy dose of wild sexual activities and infectious energy that play to the boisterous, raucous audiences who love their Rocky Horror with all its musical and comic mayhem.

Other Info: Richard O’Brien wrote the book, music and lyrics for this campy musical comedy that opened in London’s West End in 1973 and ran for nearly 3,000 performances before closing in 1980. Its Broadway version in 1975 wasn’t nearly as successful, closing after less than 50 performances, but the 1975 film version remains a fan favorite to this day.

Stray Dog’s production is inspired and invigorating. Before the show and during intermission, Been has put together a nifty series of old movie trailers touting the terrors of ghastly beasts such as giant ants or hostile aliens, mostly in glorious black and white. For intermission, you can count down the minutes to Act II along with the animated characters on screen hawking concessions available in the lobby.

Rocky Horror draws an exuberant, festive crowd that is encouraged to shout out colorful nouns for Brad and Janet whenever their names are mentioned and even to enhance the plot. The back page of the program, however, lists specific instructions about protocol lest the more frenzied get carried away.

Been has situated the band right in the middle of all the action, where they play the rollicking score impervious to the antics around them. Led by musical director Chris Petersen, the inspired combo includes guitarist AJ Lane, drummer Bob McMahon, M. Joshua Ryan on bass and Petersen at the piano.

Robert Lippert’s scenic design wistfully includes a back screen for the movie projections as well as a very cool whizbang of a sci-fi machine cleverly situated behind a curtain early in the show. Add assorted bits of smoke and fog, strobe lighting and other devilish lighting effects courtesy of Tyler Duenow and a ragtag collection of garish and misfit costumes from designer Eileen Engel and you have the makings for a rollicking good time.

Michael Juncal pays right proper homage to Tim Curry (the original Frank) as the high-heeled, makeup-manic Frank N. Furter, seducing both Brad and Janet by night while welcoming the duo to his lair with his saucy Sweet Transvestite number in deliciously decadent fashion.

Corey Fraine is a hoot as the scheming Riff Raff, leading the company on its inspired rendition of the show’s signature number, The Time Warp, accompanied in suitably droll fashion by Maria Bartolotta as Riff’s sister Magenta and Sara Rae Womack as good-time girl Columbia.

Kevin O’Brien is a suitably buttoned-up Brad and Heather Matthews displays the troupe’s best voice as the sexually awakened Janet, belting out chords that threaten to shatter Tower Grove Abbey’s stained glass windows.

Gerry Love commands attention as the stiff-upper-lip, military narrator who recounts this saucy cautionary tale with ramrod posture and nary a smile, while Bartolotta doubles as the vapid movie house usherette who introduces the evening with the plaintive tune, Science Fiction.

Luke Steingruby wears little more than a smile (but it’s a nice smile) as Frank N. Furter’s lust-inducing and surprisingly thoughtful creation, the title character, while Michael Wells doubles as the ill-fated Eddie and the wheelchair-bound scientist, Dr. Scott, who may have secret ties to the FBI.

Been fills the stage with a sextet of head-bopping, gyrating players known as the Phantoms, played grandly by Angela Bubash, Ted Drury, Stephen Henley, Tim Kaniecki, Sarah Polizzi and Dawn Schmid. Choreographer Zachary Stefaniak Shaffner keeps the Phantoms and other players cruisin’ around the set in humorous, high-octane fashion.

Although Rocky Horror has been around for more than 40 years, Been makes this risqué and bawdy valentine to cheap and sensational sci-fi flicks fresh and full of fun. You might even be inspired to dance to the Time Warp again.

MusicalThe Rocky Horror Show

Company: Stray Dog Theatre

Venue: Tower Grove Abbey, 2336 Tennessee Avenue

Dates: October 20, 21, 22, 26, 27, 28, 29

Tickets: $20-$25; contact 865-1995 or www.StrayDogTheatre.org

Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.

Photos courtesy of John Lamb

Ladue News

Stage Door St. Louis Review: The Rocky Horror Show

Luke Steingruby makes a svelte and tanned Rocky- the creation of and lusted after by Juncal’s Frank ‘N’ Furter- though he finds Janet (Slut) a bit more to his liking.

All Hail “The Rocky Horror Show” As Stray Dog Opens Their New Season

October 17, 2016 

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Nothing says Fall and Halloween better than a production of “The Rocky Horror Show” and Stray Dog brings it back with all of the zaniness, crowd reactions and scantily clad lads and lassies. If you’re familiar with the stage show or the movie (and who isn’t?), you’ll have a great time. If this is your “first time,” the audience alone will draw you in because you may miss most of the song lyrics due to some poor diction and the on stage band.

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But don’t let that little problem hold you back- this show is wild and chaotic and, at Stray Dog, it’s all over the place. Willing or unwilling audience participation is the order of the night as the actors often get up close and personal and, of course, the audience often talks back especially to yell “Asshole” every time Brad is mentioned and “Slut” every time Janet’s name crosses someone’s lips. That’s why “Rocky Horror” is more of an event than a play or musical. Program no-no’s may prevent what you often get away with watching the movie (which an awful lot of people did at midnight showings for over two decades) like shooting water pistols, lighting up lighters or other things that could impinge on an already hectic show. But all the fun and nonsensical plot twists are there along with big numbers like “The Time Warp,” “Hot Patootie” and “Science Fiction.”

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Michael Juncal leads the way as Frank ‘N’ Furter- the “Sweet Transvestite From Transexual Transylvania” as his large frame bounces around the stage in lab coat or corset. He leads an alien race, don’t you know, who have come to keep Earthlings from destroying their own planet. Meanwhile, Brad (Asshole) and Janet (Slut) have car trouble and stumble on his castle and all of the crazy inhabitants.

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Kevin O’Brien plays the nerdy Brad (Asshole) and Heather Matthews makes a lovely Janet (Slut). They soon loose their inhibitions as the crew of Phantoms release their libidos. Luke Steingruby makes a svelte and tanned Rocky- the creation of and lusted after by Juncal’s Frank ‘N’ Furter- though he finds Janet (Slut) a bit more to his liking. Corey Fraine, after his limber portrayal of Bat Boy last season, returns to play the equally flexible and over zealous Riff Raff. Michael A Wells plays the rocker Eddie and returns later as the inimitable Dr. Everett Scott.

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Maria Bartolotta does a great job as Magenta and the Usherette who opens and closes the show and Sara Rae Womack is a delightful Columbia. Always crisp, clear and concise is the wonderful Gerry Love as the Narrator. The ensemble of Phantoms is terrific as they mingle before the show and, as I said, have a lot of interaction with the audience during the performance.

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Justin Been has directed with a real flair for what makes this show tick. He pulls out all the stops and then goes a bit further. It’s a wild, controlled evening that never lets up. Chris Petersen leads the Stray Dog band and, besides occasionally drowning out the often clever lyrics, they do a great job of keeping the place rocking. Rob Lippert does his usual masterful job of creating the proper set including the screen that drops down to show before performance, during intermission and at curtain call scenes from some of the tackiest horror shows ever written. Tyler Duenow creates the mood with his lighting design and Eileen Engel’s costumes hit the right mark. Rounding out the creative team is choreographer Zachary Stefaniak Shaffner who plows through this iconic show with excellent movement and just the right touch of bawdiness.

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You know you want to see it. “The Rocky Horror Show” at Stray Dog Theatre is just crazy, nasty fun. It plays through Halloween Eve Eve- October 29th. So give them a call at 314-865-1995 to get in on the action.

Stage Door St. Louis

St. Louis Eats and Drinks Review: The Rocky Horror Show

Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show
Once more: Let’s do the time warp again. Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show is on the boards at Stray Dog Theatre. To my knowledge, this is the first time a theater program in St. Louis has admonished audience members not to squirt anything. Artistic director Gary Bell, in his pre-show announcements, also asks the audience not to throw things.

Perhaps the instructions surprise you. That means you aren’t acquainted with this particular piece of work. Rocky Horror, as it’s generally referred to, began in London in 1973 as a stage show. Within two years, it had been turned into a movie, and became one of those underground-ish phenomenons that exploded. A weekly midnight showing went on for years in many cities. Here in St. Louis, it was at the Varsity and continued for more than a decade, including one person closely related to me. Audiences often wore costumes and shouted responses or chanted lines to, or along with, the characters. It became participatory cinema, including various things, dry and wet, used as (presumably amiable) projectiles.

It’s a camp take-off on science fiction B movies, something director Justin Been utilizes even pre-show, with clips of trailers for just those sort of films. Cast members called Phantoms, who are, in effect, the chorus, roam the audience, giving an opportunity to see more closely Eileen Engel’s costumes.

A young couple’s car breaks down on a lonely road. Janet and Brad are played by Heather Matthews and Kevin O’Brien, who absolutely own their roles, playing them as slightly more mature than the barely-post-adolescent style often thought of here. O’Brien’s Brad, in particular, seems a grounded, reliable, salt-of-the-earth type of guy. They hoof it to the nearest house, which, of course, turns out to be a Rob Lippert-created castle with all sorts of stairs and crevices, fun and fascinating.

They first meet the staff, headed up by Corey Fraine as Riff Raff, the butler, a wonderfully slinking portrayal. His sidekicks, Maria Bartolotta as Magenta and Sara Rae Womack, are delightful, too, both with fine voices.

And then the head of the household appears. Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter, who declares himself a “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania”, is Michael Juncal, almost illegally fun to watch.

The evening is a bawdy romp. Forty years ago, when this show was still new, the sexual references here were startling, and it’s still not a show for children. But the staging is wonderful – in particular, pay attention to how they create Brad and Janet’s automobile. The audience responses do impede on lines, so be prepared for that, and some folks do sing along with the band, which is front and center here. While that’s fun, it impairs understanding some of the funny lyrics.

Obviously The Faithful are pouring in to see the show. This weekend is sold out completely, so move quickly to get tickets. Even if you’re not an Old Hand, it’s a fun evening.

Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show

through October 29

Stray Dog Theatre

Tower Grove Abbey

2336 Tennessee

314-865-1005

http://www.straydogtheatre.org

St. Louis Eats and Drinks

Tickets On Sale and Going FAST

Several performances are already sold out, with the remaining shows reaching capacity soon.  Get your tickets ASAP!  This is a wild, raunchy rock n’ roll party you don’t want to miss!

Richard O’Brien’s THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW

Richard O’Brien’s THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW

Book, Music and Lyrics by Richard O’Brien

Buy Tickets For This Show Now!

October 13 – October 29

8 PM Thursdays-Saturdays
Additional performances 8 PM Wednesday, October 26 and 2 PM Saturday, October 29.

The cult classic is back! After a flat tire has them stuck in a storm, sweethearts Brad and Janet come upon the eerie mansion of Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Once inside, a houseful of colorful characters take the couple on a bizarre journey they will never forget. This raucous musical is an over-the-top tribute to mid-20th century science fiction and horror B-movies.

This production is intended for MATURE AUDIENCES.

St. Louis Arts Experience

Cast

Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter – Michael Juncal
Janet Weiss – Heather Matthews
Brad Majors – Kevin O’Brien
Riff Raff – Corey Fraine
Magenta – Maria Bartolotta
Columbia – Sara Rae Womack
Rocky Horror – Luke Steingruby
Eddie/Dr. Everett Scott – Mike Wells
The Narrator – Gerry Love

Phantoms / Transylvanians
Angela Bubash
Ted Drury
Stephen Henley
Tim Kaniecki
Sarah Polizzi
Dawn Schmid

Directed by Justin Been
Music Direction by Chris Petersen

Venue

Tower Grove Abbey
2336 Tennessee Avenue
Saint Louis, MO 63104-1434

Tickets

The best way to purchase tickets and ensure availability is to purchase tickets online by using the link above or on the Tickets page. You may order tickets through the Box Office by calling (314) 865-1995.

All tickets are non-refundable. Individual tickets are not exchangeable.  Any tickets that are not picked up by ten (10) minutes prior to curtain will be released to waiting customers.

Subscribers may exchange tickets up to 48 hours in advance of a performance.
Missed subscriptions that are not addressed within 24 hours will not be able to be exchanged.

Box Office/Will Call opens 1 hour prior to performance. House opens half-hour prior to curtain.  Tower Grove Abbey is a “general seating” theatre.

Becoming Rocky Horror: I Can Make You A Man

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Heracles (Hercules) – Gatekeeper of Olympus
God of strength, heroes, sports, athletes, health, agriculture, fertility, trade, oracles and divine protector of mankind.

This is the image that comes up when searching “masculinity” online.  The legendary divine hero Heracles (more commonly known as Hercules in Roman mythology) – the ultimate symbol of manhood, fortitude, power, dominance – so strong, in fact, that he was believed to have been born of the gods.  It is not so surprising to me that these traits are also some of the key defining points of masculinity in the dictionary.  But what does it mean to be a man?

Men and women in our culture are still taught that to be a MAN is to be physically powerful, direct, decisive, emotionless, to conquer everything, and that anything other than that is somehow less-than or weak or feminine.  Even as children, when we express emotions, we are told to “man up” or “grow a pair.”  I recently watched a documentary on Netflix called “The Mask You Live In” that highlights how destructive these types of phrases can be to young boys, and how over time these repeated lessons become core values that then affect how boys and men interact with everyone else in their lives.  Often these harmful lessons are suppressed, though they end up coming out sideways through acts of aggression and disrespect towards men and women who are seen as inferior in some way.  These misguided EMOTIONS serve to keep the macho men feeling macho, and push down those “weak” qualities that they secretly identify with by being the harshest judge possible.  Consequently that poor guy builds a pretty high wall around himself that not too many people can climb over.

As a child growing up in a family of legendary athletes, I was also held to these standards.  My dad is a gladiator of a man, as are all of the men on his side of the family.  There has always been a huge emphasis on physical activity and competition in our house, and in the schools I attended.  I wrestled all through elementary school, played soccer and baseball, and started lifting weights when I was about twelve years old.  I was actually pretty good at the sports I played, but eventually rebelled and refused to play team sports altogether so that I would no longer have to live up to the ridiculous standards of my coaches, or have to try to fit in with a group of kids I didn’t feel I had much in common with personally.  However, I still sometimes find myself seeking my own approval, and that of my family and others through physical feats of strength and aesthetics – having a healthy body image has been an ongoing struggle.  I am a highly competitive person; as a result, I can be really hard on myself, and have often isolated myself from others when I have felt inferior or unworthy in some way.

I’ve known I was gay since I was three.  Of course I didn’t know what “gay” meant then, but two memories stand out to me as moments that I felt different.  I remember putting on my moms “ruby slippers” (obvious friend of Dorothy reference) and white faux fur coat and pretending to be Cruella DeVille, while applying red lipstick in her vanity mirror and cackling like the infamous Disney hag.  The other memory I have is being in the car with my family and asking my dad if he thought Brad Pitt was handsome.  I remember his response feeling like that was an odd question for me to ask, whether or not that was his intention.  I continued to play and imagine, as kids do, but kept my feelings a secret until I finally made the decision to embrace my more artistic side, take a few steps back from athletics, and sashay out of the closet dressed to the nines at age thirteen.

Fortunately both of my parents are also gifted musicians and artists.  They taught me how to sing, and how to draw.  Through these connection points with my family, my definition of manhood has expanded to include creativity, passion, compassion, expression, vulnerability, and love.  I used these artistic gifts as a means of expressing myself when I couldn’t find the right words.  This is largely what I attribute to being SO proficient now in expressing myself through artistic media.  Music and art were and still are the two things through which I feel I can make the deepest and most meaningful connections with others, including my family, and with myself.  They have offered me a very therapeutic resource to look at and make sense of some pretty intense emotions.  This is part of why I love theatre so much.  Theatre allows the actor and the audience to really empathize with another humans condition.  I feel more empathetic for having performed such a variety of characters.

For a long time I was really attracted to romantic roles, because they allowed me a pretty easy outlet to be sensitive and caring with other people without the worry of being judged for it.  I still love those roles so much, but lately my acting career has taken a turn to the more macho roles.  It started when New Line Theatre asked me to play Angel – the vivacious drag queen – in Rent, followed by Chris – a marine with PTSD – in Hands On A Hardbody.  I think this was the first time I ever felt like someone else believed that I could do anything (though I’m sure many others have), and I saw an opportunity to really start to get in touch with and make peace with some of the pressures I’ve felt to “be a man” throughout my life.  Those shows opened a huge door for me and within me.  A shift was made in my self-worth to believing that I am good enough and believing that I really can do anything, rather than limiting myself and staying in a box.  I don’t like boxes (gay joke).  Since then I have gone to the extremes of playing several more soldiers, a pre-operative transsexual, a homicidal marker sniffing hick, a slimy gang member, and several other odd characters in-between.  Somehow I’ve turned into a character actor, when I used to think that I’d only ever get to play Marius, or Tony, or Anthony.

I was pretty shocked at first when I got the call from Jay Hall offering me the role of ROCKY HORROR in The Rocky Horror Show.  A moment of dread occurred, and then a smile grew across my face as I recognized that this was yet another happy nudge from the universe saying, “You ARE good enough Luke.  Believe in yourself!  This is the direct result of all of the times you have believed in yourself and worked towards your goals.  You’ve got this!!”  My inner cheerleader was right there to remind me of my worth and that so many other people already believe in me too, and that all I have to do is trust myself and share my gifts.  That being said, I have been working out as though I’m training for the Olympics for the last several months.  Making sure my confidence and my body stay where they are is paramount, as I will be running around Tower Grove Abbey in nothing but a little gold bikini.  It feels good to know that I have so many people in my corner cheering me on.

For me The Rocky Horror Show is largely about playfully engaging in self-discovery, getting in touch with all aspects of our personalities without judging, and actively practicing self-love.  All of these things enhance how we interact with the rest of the world.  It is no coincidence that these are all emotional benefits I experience in my own floating practice too, which I will discuss in a future blog post.  I am grateful for all of the men and women in my life who help to shape me into the man I have become by showing me that the social constructs of manhood don’t have to define my human experience.  My parents specifically have both mastered the demonstration of what it means to provide, to be strong, caring, compassionate, ambitious, creative, vulnerable, loving, honest, free, and so much more.

There is more to Rocky than looking good almost naked.  Don’t get me wrong, Rocky is a big dumb sexy horny man-ape, and I am fully committed to that ideal.  I strongly identify with several of those traits myself…I mean, we’ve all seen my Instagram account (I’ll address that eventually too).  My hope is that I can bring a sliver of humanity to him, and have the audience really care about Rocky, all while objectifying the hell out of him.  It’s a delicate balance.  I have my work cut out for me, and I’m really looking forward to starting rehearsals next week.  I feel great, my #GodBod is on point, I am READY!

This one’s for all my macho men out there.  Gold speedo here I come!!!

P.S.  Hercules also fucked a BUNCH of dudes, so…

For tickets to The Rocky Horror Show visit Stray Dog Theatre

Stage Door St. Louis Review: “Yentl” at New Jewish Theatre

A strong male chorus make up the rest of the cast, mainly as townspeople. They include Will Bonfiglio, Luke Steingruby, Brendan Ochs and Jack Zanger. The entire cast works hard and, despite a few near misses on the small stage opening night, they pulled off great moments like the wedding sequence making a crowded situation look easy and effortless.

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