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“Rocky Horror” seduces Stuart’s Opera House

For Athens students and locals who lined up past Chipotle last weekend and were denied from The Union, fear not: The Time Warp returns this weekend.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, performers will take the stage at Stuart's Opera House, 52 Public Square in Nelsonville, for a performance of "The Rocky Horror Show – LIVE!," the musical theater inspiration for the cult classic film.

"The Rocky Horror Picture Show" follows the goody-two-shoes engaged couple, Brad and Janet, as their car breaks down outside a spooky mansion. This twist of fate leads them to the lab of the eccentric Dr. Frank-N-Furter, meeting a quirky, sexual band of characters in an outlandish plot full of sex, singing and acceptance. 

"I think Rocky is a lot about body positivity and just being as weird and funky and sexy as you can be and I think that's great," said Alexandro Ramirez-Nagy, a freshman studying journalism and a "phantom" in the production, or a member of the chorus.

The performance is a partnership between Stuart's Opera House and Ohio Valley Summer Theater, or OVST. Stuart's Opera House reached out to the company with the idea, and both sides were equally enthusiastic about undertaking the show, finally possible as COVID-19 precautions adjust.

"We have a very diverse cast," Ramirez-Nagy said. "We have students, we have professionals. It's a really well-rounded cast."

Kit Parsons, the executive director of OVST and a curriculum specialist for Ohio University, is playing Dr. Frank-N-Furter. For Parsons, who has now performed in around 25 musicals, this will be a revival of his gateway role to musical theater.

"I had done lots of plays and things like that and sketch comedy shows and stuff, but I'd never done a musical," Parsons said. "I just loved the movie so I auditioned for the musical and got it somehow, probably just by sheer luck because I had never done a musical before. And it was my favorite. It was my favorite thing I'd ever done."

Parsons met his wife, Alexis Parsons, through the show, and for 11 years, they have worked alongside each other. In their first show, Alexis played Janet and she is directing the "Rocky Horror" performance this weekend. Parsons was cast as Frank-N-Furter by third parties and said he was glad to know he earned the role aside from his personal connections, making the performance all the more special.

This weekend, Janet will be played by Samantha Pelham, who works as a media relations specialist for OU. When she's not donning fishnets, Pelham also serves as the board president for OVST. For Pelham, the sexual freedom of the character has boosted her confidence.

"I'm built like a woman: I have muscle, I have fat in some places and I, at first, was a little nervous to be on stage in front of hundreds of people being a woman," Pelham said. "God bless Susan Sarandon, she looks phenomenal still to this day – I am not that thin and so I'm like, 'gosh, is it gonna be okay being up there and dancing and having just my bra and slip on and some you know, fat rolls hanging out?' And truthfully, it has never even crossed my mind once I get up on stage."

Susan Sarandon originated the part of Janet in the movie. Pelham said there has been a fun balance between maintaining the iconic portions of the well-known portrayal and creating her own take on the role.

"There's a line that Janet sings towards the end of the show called 'my confidence has been increased,'" Pelham said. "And I feel like that is definitely for me been a testament to my progress within the show."

Parsons, too, has felt the pressure of filling the high-heeled shoes of other iconic performers in the role but said the well-known interpretations have provided some freedom.

"There's the outlandish nature of the character in general," Parsons said. "And (he's) also a character that's been played famously a few different times, so people also have an expectation. So it's a really a great excuse to just be completely not yourself at all."

Ramirez-Nagy said the performance will include all the audience favorites from the film while allowing the actors and tech to shine. In the musical version, he said, the production elevates from a cult classic to an homage dripping with talent while maintaining the drama, sex and horror everyone loves. 

"I'm really hoping that people take this as an opportunity to do something they wouldn't normally do and to feel like they can express themselves in a way that they might not be able to do on a daily basis," said Pelham.

Doors open at 6:30 every night, as does the bar, except for Saturday. While every other performance will begin at 8 p.m., Saturday's show will commence at 10 p.m. to allot for an audience costume party. The party will start at 8 p.m., and people can get drinks and mingle.

However, in true "Rocky Horror" spirit, costumes are encouraged every night. The actors have also factored in pauses between their lines to accommodate for well-known callbacks or the sayings "Rocky" audiences often yell in response to famous lines. Pelham said they will even be selling "Rocky" gift bags full of all the props a "Rocky" audience member could need, like newspapers to put over their heads in the rain scene or things to throw into the air that won't hurt anyone. 

"I think it's going to be great, to have a little bit of audience involvement with it," Ramirez-Nagy said. "I think the more an audience can be involved with the show, the more they will remember it and take away from it and enjoy themselves."

Ticket prices vary on seat location, costing $19.66 for general seating, $25.87 for pit seats and $38.30 for the box seats right on stage. Viewers can purchase tickets online at stuartsoperahouse.org, and Pelham said there are discounted ticket offers for both opening and closing night. She encourages everyone to come and give themselves to the lips.

"Come in, have a great time, laugh," Pelham said. "Be in your corsets and your fishnet and take away the fact that it's Halloween time and there's nothing better to do than come see a live production of this cult classic."

@katie_millard11

km053019@ohio.edu

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