“Don’t dream it. Be it!” heralds the main theme of the Gay Men Chorus of Washington D.C.’s tempestuous production of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show. The GMCW continues to dance their way into the hearts of audience with this stunning cult classic that features an all-male cast.
“This production is different on a number of levels,” explains Craig Cipollini, director and choreographer. “For one, it’s not a concert. Most of the shows we do are concerts, whereas this is a full-scale musical with a script. This show is also a bit racier than what we normally do. We certainly had shows with scantily dressed people before, but this one pushes it a little further than most.”
The original Rocky Horror Show premiered to British audiences in London on June 19, 1973. The show’s writer, Richard O’Brien, wanted to create a performance which combined elements of the unintentional humor of B horror movies with the over-the-top dramatics of science fiction movies. Audiences followed the tale of Brad and Janet who, after experiencing a flat tire, find refuge at a mysterious castle for the night. What ensues is a wild, titillating, gender-bending experience.
The GMCW follows in the same vein as that original performance with a few minor changes. “I’m playing with the idea that Brad is a closeted homosexual, and this whole experience at the Frankenstein Place makes him realize that, and in the end he leaves Janet,” Cipollini explains. “Likewise, Janet will realize that she is unhappy with Brad after her experiences with Frank and Rocky—realizing it’s OK to experience pleasure, something she wasn’t getting from Brad. I think the idea of giving yourself over will also play into it—in other words, it’s OK to let your hair down and be yourself.”
Performing in the iconic role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Joshua Bennett echoes how this performance will be different from the screen version that many fans have seen.
“When I was cast as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, I made the decision to research the character outside of the movie version. For me, that meant not watching YouTube clips or going to the film for inspiration.” Bennett continues, “I, of course, have seen the move in the past, love the soundtrack and am a big fan of Tim Curry. As such, it’s hard to ignore his gigantic influence on the role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter. You may catch some glimpses of Tim in my portrayal, but overall I think you will see a slightly softer, more feminine version from me.”
Bennett, whose background includes performing in few national Broadway tours as well as a modern dance company in New York city, has been a member of the GMCW for the last two years. He’s very excited about the vivid stage productions the Chorus is preparing. “I am looking forward to audience reactions to ‘Sweet Transvestite’ and ‘Time Warp.’ We know that many in our audience will be familiar with all of the songs, so we hope that they will dance and sing along.”
“I’m anxious to see the crowd react to the ‘Time Warp’,” echoed Cipolloni. “It’s a song and dance that everyone knows and the whole number is a lot of fun. So while we’ve tweaked the choreography a little, I can’t wait to see the audience get up and dance in the aisles with us.”
Cipolloni, a seasoned choreographer from Baltimore, draws upon many artists for inspiration. “As a choreographer, I usually draw inspiration from Broadway choreographers like Bob Fosse or Michael Bennet or Jerome Robbins. Bob Fosse has been a huge inspiration for me. For this show [however] I began looking at a lot of contemporary music videos like Lady Gaga or even just dance music videos. I wanted the show to feel fresh. The show is a rock concert—Broadway dance moves just didn’t feel right.”
Cipollini continues on to describe that this production will have all the staples of the original Rocky Horror Show, but acknowledges that this production takes things into a different direction.
“I envisioned a different version of Rocky Horror—one that is slick and metallic, with rock concert lighting and video, filled with very sexy but dark and dangerous people—like the underground club scene of the late 1980s perhaps. I also wanted the show to feel fresh, in some way. The show was originally written back in 1973 so what was once shocking and dangerous is now old news. The idea of bisexuality or homosexuality—even drag or cross dressing—is no longer shocking. So I wanted to try and push the envelope on that level as well.”
This is the third performance of the GMCW’s 31st concert season. The Chorus, which champions for gay equality, always delights audiences with their charisma, charm, and warmth.
“In the end,” Cippolini explained, “the main message from the show that we want to celebrate is: ‘Don’t dream it—Be it.’ That’s what we want people to take away from the show.”
THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW
Friday, March 16-17 • 8pm
Sunday, March 18 • 3pm (ASL interpreted) $20-50
Lisner Auditorium • George Washington Univ.
730 21st St. NW • Washington, DC
202.293.1548 • GMCW.org