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Welcome back, Rocky

If you somehow missed the rousing Artists’ Repertory Theatre production of “The Rocky Horror Show” in its recent October-November run — what were you thinking? It’s a smart, tart experience that explodes with enthusiasm. Luckily, you have a second chance. The company is bringing back “Rocky” for a five-performance encore run at the Cal Arts Severance Theatre. The production opens 8 p.m. tonight and continues through Monday with a closing New Year’s Eve performance.

This version is basically the same cast — with one well-known local theater name replacing another in a leading role. Terry Lewis will play Riff Raff, replacing Brian Pucheu, who was committed to perform in California Public Theater’s “RENT.”

To remind you of just how good this production is, here’s my Beehive review. Here’s my 7 cover story on opening day, and here’s a fun chat with director/star Daniel Chavez Jr., “Fresno’s most flexible hot dog.” Maybe what you need to spice up your New Year’s weekend is a little “Time Warp.”

THEATER REVIEW: ‘The Rocky Horror Show’

“Rocky” still rocks.

Daniel Chavez Jr. does it again — and then some — with his smart, tart revival of Artists’ Repertory Theater’s “The Rocky Horror Show” at the Severance Theatre. With a production design a couple of notches higher up on the sophistication ladder from Chavez’s last go-around in 2009 with “Rocky,” an improved quality of overall vocals, and an energy level so elevated that if it were a pulse it’d be in heart-attack territory, this vibrant new production is a stellar experience.

Even before the official downbeat, the enthusiasm in the theater is palpable. Various “Phantoms” — the show’s hard-working ensemble — cavort in the Severance Theatre space, dancing and singing, enticing audience members into the mix. By the time the spiffy band (a ragin’ Nate Butler, Tim Pugsley, John Shafer, Rick Wood and Tweed Jefferson) kick things off with “Science Fiction Double Feature,” the stage is set for a vigorously fun “Rocky” experience.

My only big reservation after Friday’s opening-night performance, was alas, something I often am concerned about in the Severance space: the sound. There has to be some way to tone the volume of the percussion down. This may be a rock ‘n’ roll show, yes, but it’s also a musical, and you can’t drown out the lyrics of some songs (and even some of the other instruments) without things sounding like mush.

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Win tickets to ‘The Rocky Horror Show’

Are you ready to do the Time Warp again?

When Artists’ Repertory Theatre presented the stage version of “The Rocky Horror Show” in 2008 at the Severance Theatre at California Arts Academy, it was a smash success. People flocked for tickets. Now the same “Rocky” is back, with some new faces and new costumes, and it’s sure to be a big event. You can look for my cover story in Friday’s 7 section.

In the meantime, let’s give away some tickets! I’m giving two pairs of tickets to the opening weekend of “Rocky Horror” (either 8 p.m. Friday or Saturday, your choice). To enter, leave a comment on this post telling us your favorite “Rocky Horror” character. I’ll select two comments at random as winners. Deadline is 3 p.m. Thursday. If you enter, please remember to check your email, because that’s how I’ll be notifying winners. Tickets will be available at Will Call. Complete rules are on the jump.

(Can you believe that’s Brian Pucheu, above, as Riff Raff? Quite the stretch from “Calamity Jane,” wouldn’t you say? Bee photo by Mark Crosse.)

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ROGUE REVIEW: Benjamin Boone Quartet

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The live jazz of saxophonist Benjamin Boone and his quartet is a fixture at the Rogue Festival. It’s popular. It’s celebrated. And all with good reason.

This band is slick.

Boone and Co. — Nye Morton on bass, David Aus on keyboards and Grammy winner Steve Mitchell on drums — manage to turn the Severence Theatre into a cool jazz club. They hop up on the stage (many Rogue shows there are on the floor), set up some tables and bring a bopping vibe to the room. All that’s missing is smoke and a cocktail waitress.

While the faces are familiar, the band creates a new show each year with new compositions. One is new as a few days ago. One is an ode to Aus’ dog. One is inspired by passed-away Tower District icon Hippie Dave. Boone calls it “weird.” I’ll call it exciting.

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