The finale of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” for those who haven’t seen it, takes place on a delapidated turn-of-the-century theater stage, with a dramatic finish featuring an RKO Radio Picture tower, climbed King Kong-like by Rocky, and a swimming pool, used in an Esther Williams homage.
Those references to old Hollywood (along with "Rocky Horror’s" more well-known B-movie sci-fi inspirations) tie together a movie that was all for those who grew up watching such films and wanted to be in them, instead of just dreaming of them.
The Montana Actors Theatre's “Rocky Horror Show Live,” returns this weekend in its eighth year, to take the Golden Age of Hollywood inspiration to its production.
“We are going for an old Hollywood, glam kind of feel,” Reid Reimers, star, director and producer of the show said.
As well, Reimers said this year’s show uses the Wilma theater’s renovated gold-and-red 1921 interior for inspiration.
“We’re incorporating that feel, and those colors, into our set design,” Reimers said, with “two big, curving staircases that come up and around, with Art Deco chevrons.”
Both the stage design and costuming will draw from a mélange of classic styles, from Art Deco to Bette Davis-era '30s glamour.
The show, which started as a stage production in London in the early 1970s before becoming an international phenomenon in film form in 1975, has been a Missoula stage staple since around 2009, Reimers said, when they used to perform in the Crystal Theater (now Gild Brewing).
The show has been at the Wilma for the last several years, and varies its stage design and costuming each year, with small tweaks to the story for freshness.
This year however, Reimers wanted to stay fairly true to the original script.
“We’re not going to wander away too far from the source material,” he said. But “we have such a talented design team, we don’t want to do the same old, same old.”
The new staging also incorporates the live band more than in years past — the players will be set up in a three-tiered bandstand on one edge of the stage, with added instruments like trumpet, saxophone and trombone to flesh out the guitar-bass-drums-piano core. The top tier will house the “kinky chorus” of backup singers.
“The band will have some light costuming to tie into the theme and feel of the show,” Reimers added.
One last big change that Reimers was quite excited about: a newcomer, Tyler Iverson, is cast as Rocky, the laboratory-created Adonis who provides the narrative thrust of the middle part of the show.
“He’s actually a cheerleader with the University of Montana cheer team,” Reimers said. “And he’s truly Adonis built.
“This is his first big production, and his first lead role.”
Reimers said Iverson’s cheer team knowledge of lifts and throws, has added a lot to their performance. It helps that he’s “disturbingly strong.”
Newbies Zach Jarvis and Annie Sacry play the naive couple Brad and Janet and Jeff Medley and Reimers return to their yearly roles of Riff Raff and Dr. Frank-N-Furter.
Drag queen Ophelia Bouvier joins as the narrator with a “prude librarian” twist to the character.
“Rocky Horror” veteran Brit Garner takes the role of Magenta once more, after playing a combo of Eddie and Dr. Scott in 2018, and taking part in the kinky chorus before that.
Reimers noted that “Rocky Horror Live” is one of the only large-scale theater productions in town that pays its performers, which, along with licensing costs and rental fees at the Wilma, makes for an expensive show and more expensive tickets.
But he hoped Missoulians would see the value in paying for a superior production, in staging, costumes, music and investment from their actors.
“Everybody really dives in and it creates a really cool family feel,” Reimers said. “The only reason that we can do this is that folks come back year after year to support us.
“It really feels like a community thing.”