Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

The Rocky Horror Show
Musical Theatre Southwest
Review by Dean Yannias

Also see Stephanie's review of Legally Blonde

Jonathan Gallegos
Unless you're a total prude, you'll have a terrific time at Musical Theatre Southwest's Rocky Horror Show. Of course, much of the fun depends on the audience you're seeing it with. I was lucky to have some interactive and vocal audience members who made the show even more entertaining.

Most theatergoers and moviegoers of a certain age have seen this show by now, but in case you haven't: it's a pastiche of B-grade horror and science-fiction movies, mainly from the '50s. Except with songs and sex.

Brad and Janet, archetypal Eisenhower era sweethearts, get lost on a dark and stormy night. The nearby castle is inhabited by a bunch of transgressive Transylvanians—not Romanians, but from outer space. The lord/lady of the manor is Frank 'N' Furter (now really, isn't that a high-school sketch comedy name?), a pansexual transvestite who has built himself a young hunk named Rocky (pre-Stallone).

The book leaves a little to be desired, like having a reason for some of the songs to be sung (the most famous, "Time Warp," occurs with no apparent lead-in; and Eddie's number "Hot Patootie" has no reason for being at all), but the music and lyrics save the day. And in this production, so does the sheer vivacity of the young and talented cast.

Jonathan Gallegos is absolutely fabulous as Frank, commanding the stage on ridiculously high platform heels and, wow, can he belt out a song. Brandon Price McDaniel as Riff Raff and Laura Nuzum in the double role of Magenta and the Usherette have strong singing voices and are fine actors. Stevie Nichols is a leggy blonde bombshell as Columbia; I wish she would have done more tap-dancing. Xavi Genaux is a perfectly built Rocky, not huge but nicely ripped, and a pretty good singer too.

As for the humans, Jimmy Finch (Brad) has a gorgeous voice and acts his part very well. Christy Burbank is likewise strong as Janet. Having a woman, Dawn Durkin, play Eddie and Dr. Scott (cue the toilet paper) seemed like a remarkably trans-whatever directing choice by Brian Clifton, but then I discovered it's been done before. I don't think it comes off for the Eddie role, but she's a lot of fun as Dr. Scott, and it's hard to believe that this is the same person who sang such a memorable "Memory" last season in Cats. Six "phantoms" (humans or aliens, I don't know) round out the cast, and all of the women who play them deserve credit for their rapport with the audience as well as their singing and dancing.

Equally important as the cast are the designers and the crew. Costumes, makeup, and hair design by Logan Keslar and sets, lights, and props by Jeff Cleveland are exceptional all around, totally professional. I hope that these two work in Albuquerque more often.

The live band, directed by Laurie Lopez, sounds great. Alissa Hall has done a good job with the choreography, Laura Nuzum coordinated the production, and Sara Meserve stage manages the complicated show. Brian Clifton merits a standing ovation for casting it so well, getting the perfect designers and crew, and directing the whole shebang with lots of pizzazz.

My only criticisms are: If you're going to have projections, don't project them onto the floor, because a lot of the audience can't see them there. And since the theater is laid out as 3/4 round, make sure that the audience members on the sides don't have to look at the back of the actors' heads for too long, especially when they're singing.

I was surprised to learn that the original Broadway production was not a hit: it ran for only 45 performances in 1975 (the revival in 2000 fared better). But Broadway is not where this show should be seen. The best place to see The Rocky Horror Show is in a place where you're close enough to see the glitter in the crimson lipstick. So get yourself to MTS's way Off-Off-Broadway black box of a theater for an out-of-this-world Halloween treat.

The Rocky Horror Show by Richard O'Brien, directed by Brian Clifton, is being presented by Musical Theatre Southwest through October 31, 2015, at their Black Box theater, 6320 Domingo NE, in Albuquerque (just east of San Pedro and just north of Central). Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00, Sundays at 4:00. Special show on Halloween at midnight. Tickets $22 with some discounts. Info at or 505-265-9119. Please don't bring items to throw onto the stage; you can buy a bag of them in the lobby. But do bring your witty remarks.

Photo: Jeff Cleveland

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