In its three envelope-pushing, edge-cutting years of existence, Bay Street Theatre has cornered the Savannah market on bright, campy and raucously alternative musicals. To quote that old Marvin Hamlisch song, nobody does it better. At least not in this town.
Right on schedule this October is Bay Street's uber-popular production of The Rocky Horror Show, that irreverent comedic romp about waxed wackjob Dr. Frank N. Furter and his colorful, pan-sexual minions, Riff Raff, Magenta, Columbia, Rocky and Eddie.
Brad and Janet. Dr. Scott.
You know the characters. You know the story and the songs. You know about the Time Warp.
Come on, you know you love it.
Jeff DeVincent is directing the show this year, and local Rocky-philes will notice that there's a new master in place at the Frankenstein Place.
Christopher Stanley is playing Dr. Frank N. Furter, the "sweet transvestite from Transylvania."
Most recently seen as Senor Pirelli, the Italian-slash-Irish shyster in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Stanley has been involved in just about every Bay Street production, either as a performer or as musical director.
With Rocky, he's got some pretty big shoes to fill. And to dance in. "The last time I was in heels was in a SCAD production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, where I played bass," he recalls. "So it was just standing there, in these yellow boots with five-inch heels. That were a size too small."
A Massachusetts native, Stanley spent the early 2000s in SCAD's theater program. He them decamped for the north and a "real" job before returning to Savannah, just because he loved it, in 2009.
He was tending bar and hosting Karaoke at Club One when manager Travis Coles mentioned he was looking for a bass player for the Rocky band.
Stanley, who plays keyboards, guitar and bass, got the gig. And when, not long afterwards, Coles and Valerie Lavelle formed Bay Street Theatre proper, Stanley gladley joined the team.
"That definitely solidified my love for the club," Stanley says. "It's someplace I enjoy working, and when they started this theater I was like 'It's everything I need under one roof!'"
Starting in 2010, he was the musical director for three consecutive Rocky productions.
This year ... those towering high heels aren't the only big shoes Stanley has to contend with.
"Chris Blair had been Frank N. Furter for five years, and was fantastic," he says. "So you're kind of in that shadow — but I think of it as Doctor Who. Like I'm the next doctor.
"You have to make it your own — but you're still the doctor."
DeVincent, he explains, "has given me lots of different ideas. We're bouncing off each other and slowly shaping this new Frank." He admits that a few of Blair's sassiest Frank-isms have survived and will be part of his dialogue. If it ain't broke ...
The estimable Warren Heilman is the 2013 musical director. And it's an all-new cast.
Rocky Horror is a blessing for Bay Street Theatre, for a couple of reasons.
"This is one show we'll most likely do every year, because people love it," says Stanley. "It's a seasonal show. And musicals tend to be our cash cows — the success of Rocky Horror allowed us to do shows that were less successful. It's allowed us to take risks, and we appreciate it.
"If we wanted to, we could have the same cast every year, not change the blocking, not do any new choreography, and we could throw it at them. But I love that every year, we always come up with something different."
As for Chris Stanley, he's always up for a good challenge. This is going against type for him, and he knows it.
"The character of Rocky has to look sexy; Frank N. Furter has to be sexual," he explains. "You have to carry yourself in a way that says you enjoy your body. You can't be a prude.
(Spoiler alert) "I sort of imagine the reason Riff Raff and Magenta end up turning on him is because he's even too sexual for them."