Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
ROCHESTER – “You haven’t lived until you’ve seen someone with a walker trying to do the ‘Time Warp.'”
Metro Detroit theatergoers will get just that chance beginning Sept. 8 when Meadow Brook Theatre revives its much-celebrated production of the hit musical “The Rocky Horror Show” for a short, four-performance run.
Meadow Brook’s award-winning production was originally staged during the theater’s 1999-2000 season, but it was an experience MBT Managing Director John Manfredi – who played (and again plays) Frank N. Furter, a transvestite from Transexual, Transylvania – will never forget. “I’ve been working at this theater for over 20 years, and this is the only show I ever remember there being – besides ‘A Christmas Carol’ – people in the aisles because it was so full,” Manfredi recalled. “And I’ve never seen people get up and dance at Meadow Brook!”
And that’s not all they do at a performance of the 1973 cult musical that later spawned a popular, late-night, toast-tossing movie. Both the play and the movie are legendary – especially among 30-and-40-somethings – for their creative use of audience participation.
It’s the sheer fun of the experience that draws a wide range of theatergoers to the production. “It was such a treat to walk out there as Frank N. Furter and look at the typical Meadow Brook audience sitting next to the dude in the leather jacket and black lips standing next to the Goth chick and the two gay guys wearing Carmen Miranda hats – and everybody getting together and enjoying the show,” Manfredi said.
The seeds for revival were sown almost immediately after Manfredi and David Regal took control of the struggling theater in 2003. “Palace Sports and Entertainment approached us about remounting the show, but I didn’t think we were ready to produce an extra show on top of our regular season at that point in time, so we put it off,” Manfredi said.
But after a successful shot at producing “Golf: The Musical” late last summer in conjunction with the Ryder Cup, Manfredi felt it was finally time for its revival. “Doing it at the festival, it’s for four shows only. So we can get a lot more bang for our buck!”
Although some might think staging a major musical for such a short run is a waste of resources, Manfredi sees it quite differently: It’s a marketing tool. “We do this to try and get more diverse audiences to come and see Meadow Brook productions. David and I are pretty cocky in that we think if we can get you to one of our shows, we have a way better chance of keeping you coming back.”
That plan apparently worked last year, as the theater sold more than $100,000 worth of tickets to “Golf: The Musical” – and as a result, the theater sold more single tickets this past season than they did the year before. “So we saw the return of those folks, and I think we’ll see the same type of success with ‘Rocky Horror.'”
This year’s “Rocky” features Manfredi, Regal and Jodie Kuhn Ellison in their previous roles, and Geoffrey Sherman’s original staging. But it was difficult to get many of the other actors to return due to prior commitments. Instead, local actors James Bowen, MaryJo Cuppone, Andy Huff, Jason Richards and Kate Willinger have been added to the cast, as well as Chicago-based talent Michael Witwer.
One thing Manfredi won’t have to worry about is fitting into his fishnet stockings. “I’ve really been busting my hump to get into shape,” said the actor who looks more like a character on “The Sopranos” than a drag queen. “I’m five years older and I quit smoking, so I was about 30 pounds heavier. Now I’m smaller than I was the first time, so I’m pretty pleased about that. It was good motivation for me!”
Advance ticket sales for “The Rocky Horror Show” are going well, Manfredi said. “But you know me: I always want to sell more tickets! I always want more people to come!”