In a dreary London West End upstairs theater in June of 1973, something incredible happened. A silly little live show, that no one ever thought would become a beloved worldwide phenomenon, opened to a very small house. Written as a love letter of sorts to the fabulous collection of 1940’s campy sci fi films and musicals, “The Rocky Horror Show” hit a note of resonance with fans from all walks of life. It became a film two years after a string of less-than-awesome theater appearances around the globe, and remains the longest-running release in film history.
You should totally watch the BBC live production of “The Rocky Horror Show” filmed in London and presented last year. You know what? It was adorable. I didn’t care for their Columbia AT ALL, but everyone else did their roles well. The best part was of course the rotating cast of Criminologists (which in the stage show are simply known as Narrator), and the appearance of Richard O’Brien, WHO LOOKS BETTER NOW THAN HE DID IN 2002. I don’t know how he managed that, but he did. The show was done from a place of love, the audience yelled callbacks, the cast played along. I know there will be actors/actresses who say “That’s so disrespectful!”, but it’s part of the charm of the show. Really. This is why I’m so anti the remakes, because at least this version included O’Brien, included that special SPARK of madness and silly breaking of the third wall.
Also, if you’ve never watching RHPS with the audio commentary on, you really should. It’s Richard O’Brien and Patricia Quinn going through SEVERAL bottles of wine while they watch the film together for the first time in decades. It’s adorable.
I’ve been doing RHPS for a LOOOONG time, not as long as some on my friends and family, but it’s been something important and incredibly special to me since I was very young. The messages of acceptance, change, being ok with sexuality that might not be the norm, fantastic songs (really, look at them musically, they’re perfect), and one of the most bitchin’ Queens in all stage/cinema should never be lost. They are parts of what has kept the stupid B movie alive and in our local theaters for 40 YEARS, you guys.
People like remakes. People like rebooting things like this because they think it’ll bring it to a new audience. In all honesty, this doesn’t need it. I will use the Glee episode as an example. Sure, many RHPS casts and fans HATED it, and there were parts I sure as hell didn’t like (the casting for some of the parts were all wrong), but lemme tell you about my shadow casts’ attendance after it aired. We were turning people away at the door because we couldn’t fit them in our theater. That hasn’t happened to a Bay Area cast in probably 15 years, and even then, usually only for the Halloween show. So, hate it or not, it DID do what it set out to do, present the show to a new audience, and capture their imaginations in a pair of sparkly fishnets.
The most recent news regarding the Fox Studios remake is the first image of Laverne Cox (Orange Is The New Black) in the lead role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter. For what it’s worth, I think she’ll be lovely in the part. She’s got the attitude, as far as I know, she can sing. Even if she can’t, her acting prowess will carry the character. BUT- this has opened a brand new can of worms. What is Frank’s theme song? “Sweet Transvestite”.
There are many across the GLBTSQ community who see this casting as a vast setback, putting a very proud and out trans woman under fire for making a mockery of who she is. (These are not my words, this are the very public opinion of many MANY people.) I live in San Francisco, so I was expecting maybe an outpouring of support for this choice, as Laverne has become a symbol to so many. I cannot begin to imagine how those who identify as Trans see this, I can only comment on it from a fan standpoint. I also have to think Laverne wouldn’t have accepted the gig if she thought it would in anyway shape or form set her community back.
Something also to keep in mind is the version Laverne has been cast in is the LIVE FOR TV version. As in, Fox TV is producing a two hour live production, much like the BBC one, to air sometime next year. The TV special will be produced and directed by Kenny Ortega, who has long been rumored to be remaking the dance classic Dirty Dancing. Fox Studios is also in the process of producing a full remake, to be released in movie theaters ALSO sometime next year, no word on a director yet. This seems very strange, but then again, Fox Studios seems to have issues knowing when to say no to a project. Neither of these will involve the source’s creator Richard O’Brien, and that is just a damn shame.
But really, why does any of this STILL matter, so long after the original release of a crappy little movie no one wanted to see when it opened? Because the ongoing message of “Don’t Dream It, Be It” IS STILL IMPORTANT. Acceptance, love, friendship, aliens and sex, sexuality, all of these things matter. For such a long time, the main cast distanced themselves from the project, most notably Susan Sarandon (who played Janet). She wouldn’t talk about it, she wouldn’t list it in her bodies of work, she simply passed it over. Then something happened, something changed, and Sarandon launched a campaign called “Embrace Change“. This fundraiser (100% of the proceeds will help finance DEEP RUN, a coming of age documentary about an Evangelical trans teen becoming a man) included a t-shirt with her now famous likeness from The Rocky Horror Picture Show as both the innocent Janet, and the post-fornication floor show Janet with the words “Embrace Change” prominently displayed. Tim Curry, who played the film’s leading role suffered a massive stroke two years ago, and make it a point of appearing in a recent anniversary segment on The Today Show with his castmates.
So do me a favor. This year, take it upon yourself to show the film to the next generation of outcasts and dreamers. Teach them to “Time Warp”. Help them realize different is beautiful, sometimes a little scary, but always worth the transformation.