Campy and spectacular, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is a perfect Halloween cult-classic, and Illini Student Musicals (ISM) are ready to put their own spin on it again, just in time for the spooky season.
“We’re actually in our fifth year anniversary,” said Sydney Gutierrez, director and UIUC senior in English.
The film’s original release was in 1975 but is still revisited every year in theaters across the country. Shadow casts reenact the choreography and mouth the words in front of a screen playing the film while audience members interact by shouting lines, throwing things, and dressing the part. It’s a wildly interactive experience deeply rooted in inclusivity.
“In the decades before us, people needed a place to explore gender in an accepting space when the world was even more full of shame for those of us who aren’t white, straight, or cis-gendered,” Gutierrez said. “I think Rocky continues to be that space for all of us. All the same, this movie is as much about visibility as it is about being your fine-behinded weird self. No matter where you’re coming from, as long as you come for a good time and some good fun, we want you in that theater shouting and dancing along with us, the cast.”
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is about a couple, Brad and Janet, who end up at the mansion of Dr. Frank-N-Furter as a result of a flat tire. The doctor, who is (using the movie’s language) a “Sweet Transvestite,” exposes Brad and Janet to sensuality and sexuality, all while introducing a variety of scary yet alluring characters. A culture was instantly bred around this classic, with many people seeing the show every year as part of a tradition, and many even performing in the production several times.
Joe Spina, a senior studying Integrated Biology, is in his third production of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” After taking on the role of Frank-N-Furter and even directing, this year he is playing Rocky.
“It’s a very physical role and I’ve been having an absolute blast trying to bring the character to life,” Spina said.
Despite Spina being on his third Rocky production and Gutierrez being on her fourth, they are still finding ways to keep it fresh.
“This year, I wanted to amp up the laughs. Be on the lookout for old jokes and plenty of new dances and massive punchlines that will hit the back of the theater,” said Gutierrez.
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” is a significant piece of pop culture. It is jam-packed with LGBTQ+ icons, genuine laughs, and features enough grotesque content to get your Halloween fill in, its not an event you should skip.
“There’s a reason that Rocky has the longest theatrical release in the history of film, and it’s thanks to the people who have shown up year after year, show up in costume, call out to the screen, and there really isn’t another place where you can experience that,” said Spina.
Performances of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” will be on October 17th, 18th, and 19th at 9:30 P.M. at The Art Theatre. Tickets will be sold in advance on The Art Theatre’s website as well as in-person the nights of the shows.