Sixteen years ago, Christopher Blair directed a local production of The Rocky Horror Show. “And I swore I’d never do it again,” he laughs.
Ah, but there must be something sweet about 16, because Blair – who’s played Dr. Frank N. Furter at Bay Street Theatre since 2008 – is back in the director’s chair again, helming a show he lovingly calls “bizarre and raunchy,” a.k.a., right up his alley.
“I figured that if there was going to be a show I could direct, it would be Rocky Horror,” says the 2011 Best Actor winner in the 2011 Connect Savannah readers’ poll. “I know every song, I know the harmonies for every song. And I’ve done it so many times.
“Maybe the next time I direct, I might pick something a little less ambitious. But I’m having a ball doing it.”
Bay Street’s Halloween–season tradition of the live–onstage production of Rocky Horror opens Oct. 21 and runs through the 30th at Club One.
As pretty much everybody knows, it’s a cross–sexual parody of 1950s horror films, decadent and amoral and wholly outrageous. And it’s riotously funny. And it’s a musical. And hey, there are space aliens.
Once again, Blair will appear in full drag as Frank, the “sweet transvestite” in whose creepy gothic castle the twisted action of Richard O’Brien’s story takes place.
In his capacity as the production’s big cheese, he dutifully held auditions for every role in the show, including Frank.
“It would have made my life easier, as the director, to not be Frank,” Blair explains. “But at the end of the day, there was a lot of outcry from the local community, saying they wanted me to do it. That was one factor.
“The other factor was, I had to weigh it against my performance, which is always kinda dicey and weird ... ultimately, I think we made the right decision.”
Indeed, Blair’s campy, vampy Frank – and his recurring appearances as the singing, transgendered heroine of Hedwig and the Angry Inch – are seasonal high–water marks of Savannah community theater.
“If I was sick of doing it after three years, I would’ve just let the chips fall and cast somebody else,” he adds. “But I really do enjoy the role. As the director it makes my life a little bit more problematic, but nothing that is insurmountable.
“There’s going to be a day when I might want to hang up the boots, or play a different character in it. But I love the show; it’s the most fun I have ever, onstage. And I’ll do it as long as the Bay Street Theatre lets me do it.”
The August Rocky Horror auditions attracted a record number of aspirants this year. The new cast, Blair says, is bigger than it’s ever been because of the level of talent that showed up.
Timothy Reynolds and Jonette “Jojo” Page play Brad and Janet, the young lovers who get a flat tire and stumble upon Frank’s castle in search of aid. Helen Valenzuela (seen recently in The Laramie Project) and Courtney Flood (she was Sally Bowles in Bay Street’s Cabaret) are Magenta and Columbia, respectively.
The 2010 Rocky director, Valerie Macaluso, plays the interactive narrator, Genie Brazzeal is Dr. Scott, Micah Thompson stars as Rocky, and Bryan West is Eddie.
As Riff Raff, the castle’s all–purpose singing and dancing hunchback, Blair has cast Jeff DeVincent, who directed him earlier this year in Cabaret (Blair cut a so–memorable figure as the Emcee).
DeVincent is himself no stranger to directing Rocky Horror. “He’s trained people to sing Riff Raff for nearly a decade, and now we finally get the guy who trains the guy to actually be the character,” says Blair.
In other words, Blair gets to the turn the tables and crack the whip on his former director. “I actually do get to beat him with a whip,” Blair laughs. “And that’s kind of fun, too.”
For the first time, the band will be on the stage with the cast, giving Rocky Horror more of a celebratory, rock concert vibe.
Christopher Stanley is the musical director; the choreography is by Travis Dodd.
Blair says having such a strong and dedicated support team has made his job as director much more enjoyable than it was 16 years ago.
Also new this year, for your pleasure: “We have a completely different configuration of the stage. They’ve built an extension, and it’ll be almost like a three–quarter thrust stage.
“Symmetry kind of plays a big role in the show this year, because we’re playing to two sides as opposed to more of a proscenium setup.”
Don’t say you weren’t warned, Savannah.
The Rocky Horror Show – Live!
Where: Club One, 1 Jefferson St.
When: At 8 p.m. Oct. 21, 22, 23, 28, 29 & 30, plus a midnight show Oct. 30
Sunday shows are 18 and over; all others are 21+