We had a great time last Friday in The Bee’s photo studio preparing our big cover-story package on the opening of “The Rocky Horror Show” in tomorrow’s issue of 7. For the shoot, we had (appropriately enough) seven of the leading cast members show up in full “Rocky” regalia. (Or, in the case of Rocky himself, a costume that can be measured in mere square inches of fabric.)
Because of our fancy photo treatment of “Rocky Horror” in 7, I didn’t have enough space to go into all the details I would have liked after talking with Daniel Chavez Jr., who is both director and the leading character of Frank ‘N’ Furter (above; Bee photo by Mark Crosse). So consider this post an addition to my 7 story.
The look of the show: Chavez’s “steam punk” aesthetic will best be seen in the costumes, which have been completely redone from the 2008 Severance Theatre production. An example: the Phantoms four years ago wore leather corsets and fishnet stockings. The updated look replaces the leather with satin brocade and adds peasant blouses, garters, hose, puffy sleeves and ruffles. “I kind of feel like my tastes have refined,” Chavez says. “We’re taking it away from the whole garage-band grunge look.”
Other changes: Along with the expanded cast of Phantoms, this new “Rocky” features some new set pieces. Chavez has also added some new dance breaks to songs. And one of his big numbers gets a makeover. “I’ve tried to turn “Sweet Transvestite” into more of a burlesque kind of number,” he says. “In this case the costume just gets smaller and smaller.”
The cast: Four cast members are returning to their original roles played in all three incarnations of “Rocky Horror.” (Besides the 2008 Severance production, there was a 2009 version at the Tower Theatre.) They are: Hal Bolen as The Narrator, Alexis Garriott as Janet, Diane Engel as a Phantom and Chavez as Frank ‘N’ Furter. A couple of returning cast members have switched roles: Murphy (who played a Phantom and Magenta and now plays Dr. Scott) Scott), Katharine Dorian (who played Columbia and now plays Magenta), Brian Pucheu (who played a Phantom and now plays Riff Raff) and Jeremy Hitch (who played Rocky and now plays Eddie). Rounding out the principal cast are Bryce Moser as Brad, Chelsea Harper as Magenta and Javier Padilla as Rocky. (Plus a whole bunch of Phantoms.)
On a personal note: It’s obvious that Chavez LOVES this show, and he takes the chance to perform the role quite seriously. In the time since the Tower Theatre production in 2009, he’d put on some weight, so he started losing weight slowly and surely, and he took off 45 pounds. “I eat responsibly, I work out a lot, and I teach dance,” he says. “I didn’t go on a crash diet.” Chavez is also aware that a role like this takes a lot out of a body. He’s not necessarily saying this will be his very last time as Frank ‘N’ Furter, but he’s getting older.”This third time around, I’m hitting 40 soon, and I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to wear leather and kick my face and feel good about it,” he says.
The production’s future: The show has been designed this time around to go up and down very quickly, which gives it some flexibility in terms of scheduling. If ticket sales go really well, the theater company will consider bringing it back for an encore, probably a few weeks after the official closing date of Nov. 24. Even more ambitiously, Chavez would love for Fresno to embrace the show so thoroughly that he could bring it back a few times a year for a weekend — thus making it into a local nightlife tradition. “It’s a lot more fun going to this show than going to a bar,” he says. “Let’s make it a destination!”