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Richard O’Brien’s Outrageously Campy Cult Musical, “The Rocky Horror Show,” Opens Aug. 17th at RLT

The RLT "Rocky Horror Show" cast includes Sandi Sullivan as Magenta, James Ilsley as Frank 'N' Furter, and Brent Wilson as Riff Raff (photo by Curtis Brown Photography)

The RLT “Rocky Horror Show” cast includes Sandi Sullivan as Magenta, James Ilsley as Frank ‘N’ Furter, and Brent Wilson as Riff Raff (photo by Curtis Brown Photography)

Raleigh Little Theatre will kick off its new five-show Sutton Series with The Rocky Horror Show, an outrageously campy and over-the-top PG-13 rated 1973 cult musical with songs and script by Richard O’Brien. The 76-year-old community theater will perform this uproarious rock-and-roll musical in its Cantey V. Sutton Main Stage Theatre on Aug. 17-19 and 23-26 and Aug. 30-Sept. 2, with a special midnight performance on Friday, August 24th.

The Rocky Horror Show is a mash-up of a cheesy 1960s horror movie and a low-budget 1960s sci-fi film. It commences when a naïve and innocent couple of young squares’ car breaks down, and they seek shelter in a nearby castle inhabited by oversexed gender-bending aliens in full party mode.

“I have never seen The Rocky Horror Show onstage; I have only seen the [1975] movie, which is called The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” confesses RLT artistic director Haskell Fitz-Simons, who has directed 171 productions during his 30 years at Raleigh Little Theatre.

He adds, “The Rocky Horror Show is strongly about human sexuality, but in a fun way. It’s probably no more frank than a Feydeau comedy, but it is clothed differently…. You might call it a rock-and-roll sex farce.”

“We’ve been talking about doing The Rocky Horror Show for years,” Fitz-Simmons reveals, “but there were various and sundry ramifications …. I still feel that it is not to everybody’s taste. For example, the blue hairs may object to it; but I am a blue hair now — metaphorically speaking — and I love it! And we have also been searching for something that might bring some new blood into the theater.”

The Rocky Horror Show is a great plastic icon,” says Haskell Fitz-Simons. “It’s almost anti-matter. But it’s very theatrical. It set out to break all the molds, and does so without offending too many people. I don’t guess there will be too many people running screaming into the night [at the final curtain]. We have done rougher stuff here.”

The Rocky Horror Show premiered on June 19, 1973 in the 60-seat Royal Court Theatre Upstairs in London, later transferred to the Chelsea Classic Cinema and other locations, and racked up 2,960 performances in London by 1980. The musical made its Broadway debut, directed by Jim Sharman, on March 10, 1975 at the Belasco Theatre, where it played for 45 performances before closing on April 5, 1975.

The show’s original Broadway production starred Tim Curry as mad scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter; Bill Miller as hero Brad Majors; Abigale Haness as heroine Janet Weiss; rock star Meat Loaf as both the ex-delivery boy Eddie and Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s rival scientist Dr. Everett V. Scott; and composer, lyricist, and librettist Richard O’Brien as handyman Riff Raff.

There was a much longer-lived 2000-02 Broadway revival of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, starring Tom Hewitt as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, which ran for 437 performances and received five 2001 Tony Award® nominations, plus five 2001 Drama Desk Award nominations, including the Tony and Drama Desk Award awards for best revival of a musical.

The 1975 British motion-picture adaptation of the London and New York musical, rechristened as The Rocky Horror Picture Show and directed by Jim Sharman from a screenplay by Sharman and Richard O’Brien, starred Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Barry Bostwick as Brad Majors, Susan Sarandon as Janet Weiss, Meat Loaf as Eddie, Jonathan Adams as Dr. Scott, and Richard O’Brien as Riff Raff.

Since its release nearly 40 years ago, The Rocky Horror Picture Show has became a wildly popular cult movie, which still is screened at midnight every Friday night at The Rialto Theatre in Raleigh (for details, see The film was inducted into the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films’ Hall of Fame in 1980.

Raleigh Little Theatre‘s cast for The Rocky Horror Show includes James Ilsley as Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter, Kaine Riggan as Brad Majors, Sarah Winter as Janet Weiss, David Adams as Eddie/Dr. Scott, and Brent Wilson as Riff Raff. The no-holds-barred rock musical also stars Evelyn McCauley as the show’s Narrator, Sandi Sullivan as Magenta, Ann Davis as Columbia, and Brian Fisher as Rocky. The Phantoms who haunt the castle include Brett Yates, Debbie Tullos, Lauren Hussey, Rose Higgins, Thad Bell, and Tyanna West.

“One of the big challenges of staging The Rocky Horror Show is finding an actor who has the power to lay Frank ‘N’ Furter — the Tim Curry role — without being absolutely slavish to the film,” claims director Haskell Fitz-Simons. “We were very fortunate to have James Ilsley audition for us. He’s making a perfectly delicious, delightful, scary Frank ‘N’ Furter — which is all the things that Frank ‘N’ Furter should be.”

Fitz-Simons adds, “The script is very light on story arc and character development. That has given us a great deal of freedom to create our own. We don’t have to act like Tim Curry or look just like the film, although I don’t think anyone will be disappointed in what we have achieved….

“It’s been a good challenge to take the script and make it unique to Raleigh Little Theatre,” says Haskell Fitz-Simons. “I think we’ve been super-successful at that, everybody’s had a good time, and we all have high hopes [for the production’s success].”

Fitz-Simmons says The Rocky Horror Show comes with music books — but not arrangements — from Samuel French, Inc., so Raleigh Little Theatre was able to tailor the score to showcase the strengths of its cast members.

He adds, “Rehearsals have been a lot of fun. It’s been an interesting journey; and I mean that in a good way, not in a bad way.”

When the curtain rises on The Rocky Horror Show, reports Haskell Fitz-Simons, “It is a dark and story night and a young couple [played by Kaine Riggan and Sarah Winter] is having car trouble. They get taken to a dark and scary castle, where the inhabitants just happen to be from another planet.

“[The aliens] are, to say the least, a little predatory in a sexual sense. In the end, Brad and Janet find out things about themselves that they never would have imagined, and the castle — which is really a spaceship — blasts off to return to Transsexual Transylvania, from which it came,” says Fitz-Simons.

In addition to director Haskell Fitz-Simons, the Raleigh Little Theatre creative team for The Rocky Horror Show includes assistant director Adrienne Dyson, choreographer Nancy Rich, musical director Scott R. McKenzie, technical director Todd Aberts, set and lighting designer and properties manager Thomas Mauney, costume designer Jenny Mitchell, sound designer Todd Houseknecht, and stage manager Tim Locklear.

The Rocky Horror Show has a unit set,” notes director Haskell Fitz-Simons. Our metaphor was the interior of a warehouse, made over for a rave. It’s very techno-industrial. There’s a lot of brick, a lot of steel.”

He adds, “The lights are — for want of a better term — rock-and-roll lights, with a lot of color … that makes everyone just beautiful.”

Fitz-Simons says, “The Earth story takes place in the mid-1960s, so Brad and Janet are wearing conventional Sixties dress when they enter the castle, whose inhabitants wear a lot of leather, a lot of lace, a lot of heavy makeup, and some fetish items, such as high-heeled boots and shoes.”

The Transsexual Transylvanians have a Glam-Rock look, Fitz-Simons says, “like David Bowie on steroids…,

“As we put in the audition notice,” declares director Haskell Fitz-Simons, “this may not be a show that your grandmother would enjoy, unless you have a very cool grandmother. There’s a lot of sexual content, although the language is not rough. The Rocky Horror Show is really a PG-13 rated musical.”

Besides The Rocky Horror Show, the Sutton Series also includes The 39 Steps (Oct. 12-14, 18-21, and 25-28), a 2005 melodrama adapted by Patrick Barlow from the 1915 novel by John Buchan and the 1935 movie by Alfred Hitchcock; Bus Stop (Feb. 1-3, 7-10, and 14-17), a 1955 comedy-drama by William Inge; The Importance of Being Earnest (April 12-14, 18-21, and 25-28), an 1895 comedy of manners by Oscar Wilde; and Once on This Island (June 7-9, 13-16, and 20-23), a 1990 Broadway musical with music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics and book by Lynn Ahrens, based on Rosa Guy’s 1985 novel My Love, My Love; or, The Peasant Girl.

Raleigh Little Theatre presents THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW at 8 p.m. Aug. 17 and 18, 3 p.m. Aug. 19, 8 p.m. Aug. 23, 8 p.m. and midnight Aug. 24, 8 p.m. Aug. 25, 3 p.m. Aug. 26, 8 p.m. Aug. 24-26, 8 p.m. Aug. 30-Sept. 1, and 3 p.m. Sept. 2 in the Cantey V. Sutton Main Stage Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.

TICKETS: $22 ($18 students and seniors 62+), except all tickets $12 on Aug. 19th.

BOX OFFICE: 919/821-3111 or






NOTE 1: There will be a wine-and-cheese meet-the-cast reception in the main stage lobby after the opening-night performance, Aug. 17th. All opening-night ticket holders are welcome.

NOTE 2: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive listening devices are available for all shows.


The Musical: (official U.K. tour website), (Wikipedia), and (Internet Broadway Database).

The Script: (Google Books).

Richard O’Brien:’Brien (Wikipedia).

The Film: (Wikipedia) and (Internet Movie Database).

The Director: (Facebook).


Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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