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Show returns for one weekend only by popular demand
Kat Grosso as Frank-N-Furter's golden creation Rocky, far right, and cast rehearse a scene from the cult favorite “Rocky Horror Show,” returning to McKeesport Little Theater for one weekend only. (Photo courtesy MLT)
If you go...
“Rocky Horror Show”
Where: McKeesport Little Theater, 1614 Coursin St.,
Tickets: $20 for adults, $12 for students, available by calling the theater at (412) 673-1100 or online.
When patrons of McKeesport Little Theater’s 2022 debut of “Rocky Horror Show” made it clear they’d like to see it become an annual event, director Heather Atkinson took it to heart.
“We got a lot of response last year that people wanted us to do this every year, so we put in for the rights again the day after ‘Rocky Horror’ closed, and found out we were approved again the day before Thanksgiving,” she said.
With show rights acquired and Atkinson on board to return to direct, she said she started thinking about things that would carry over from the 2022 production and others she wanted to change.
The 2023 MLT edition of “Rocky Horror Show” opens today (Oct. 27), and continues for one weekend only on Saturday (Oct. 28) and Sunday (Oct. 29). All shows are at 7:30 p.m., with pre-show activities starting at 6:45 p.m.
“I love everything about ‘Rocky Horror’ (the father-daughter dance at her wedding was to one of the songs), so my goal is always to make the show as fun and exciting as possible for everyone involved, both production and audience,” she said, “while keeping true to the show and the beloved characters.”
“Rocky Horror” is a musical with a cult-like following. It tells the story of a naïve, newly engaged couple, Brad and Janet (Alex Stumpf and Katy Carney).
They become stranded in a severe storm and seek shelter at the home of a mad transvestite scientist, Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Ron Clawson). A relatively small but very diverse cast brings the tale of what happens to life, including the scientist’s latest creation, Rocky (Kat Grosso).
MLT’s cast includes veterans, newcomers, and some who appeared in last year’s show playing new characters this time around.
“We have a mix of cast members, both new and old,” Atkinson said. “Everyone from last year’s cast are all playing different roles, with the exception of one. Those cast members have taken their roles and really embraced them. It’s so amazing to know they were completely different characters last year, and to see them in a totally different character is really awesome.
“I also love that we have so many new faces this year on the MLT stage,” the director said.
Clawson is a MLT veteran, who started out in the Juniors program and has appeared in many lead and supporting roles in musicals and plays as an adult.
His said he’s felt a connection to “Rocky Horror” for years.
“During my time in the MLT Juniors program, we had a cast party at a friend’s house where we watched the movie (‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’) for the first time,” Clawson explained.
“I said to my friends, ‘I need to play Frank at some point in my life,’ and finally 15 years later, here I am.”
Clawson said he saw the 2022 production, but wasn’t available to perform in it because of his work schedule.
“I wanted to audition, but unfortunately, I couldn’t as I traveled quite a bit for work,” he said. “The show was amazing and so much fun, which made me want to do it even more this year.”
Playing the mad scientist is a big challenge in itself, but Frank-N-Furter also has a propensity for wearing high heels.
“My favorite thing about my character is his carefree, dominant attitude,” Clawson said. “He truly commands a room and has no care what anyone else thinks about him. He’s also absolutely crazy, which is so fun to portray on stage.”
About those high, platform heels?
“Stepping into Frank’s heels was quite the process,” Clawson said, “and far different than anything I’ve done in my 15 years performing with MLT. I knew immediately that I wanted Frank to be my own creation, but to keep him as beloved as Tim Curry’s portrayal (in the movie).
“Also, going into this production, I just told myself to be as carefree as possible and to just have fun with it,” he said.
Clawson said overcoming wearing heels and building up stamina for Frank-N-Furter were his biggest challenges.
“The hardest part was breaking the heels, but we managed,” he said. “I have rehearsed in them almost every rehearsal since our first blocking rehearsal. Also, having the stamina to keep going, because when Frank comes on stage, he typically doesn’t leave it.”
Those returning to “Rocky” but in different roles include Alex Stumpf as Brad, who was the Narrator last year. Laura Stumpf was Riff Raff, but tackles Eddie this year.
Mandy Eckenrode played Eddie/Dr. Scott, but is Riff Raff this time around. Carney as Janet was in the ensemble previously.
Looking toward opening night, Clawson said he has some favorite parts of the show.
“First and foremost, the cast is everything,” he said. I couldn’t have asked for a better cast to do this show with. Being on stage with them is an absolute delight.
“Second, my favorite part of the actual show is performing the song, “I’m Going Home.” It’s the only part of the show where you see a bit into Frank’s delicate side. It’s also my favorite song to sing,” he said.
Atkinson said her biggest challenge directing “Rocky Horror” the second time around was trying to make it as fun and exciting as last year.
“It was really hard not to compare this year and last year’s shows,” she said. “”I had to keep telling myself, ‘New year, new cast, new everything.’ Mostly all of the costumes are different and the set is more elaborate than last year. I kept what I thought worked and tweaked things that I didn’t think worked from last year.”
She said she thinks “Rocky Horror” works well at McKeesport Little Theater because it is a great atmosphere with the intimacy of the space.
“Cast members are able to connect and interact with the audience in different ways,” she explained. “They are able to be up close and personal by interacting with the audience and singing/dancing/acting literally right next to them. The space is big enough to perform a full show, yet small enough to be able to see everything that is going on no matter where you sit.”
The director advises those who attend – for the first time, or returnees – to be ready to have a fun night out.
“This show is truly an interactive experience,” Atkinson said. “With the prop bags, audience participation, and preview show, we want you to be smiling and singing after you leave. The show is a little risqué, so parental discretion is advised.”
Alex Stumpf as Brad
Cheyenne Ehman as Columbia
Henry Nightingale as Dr. Scott/Ensemble
Kate Butler as Trixie
Katy Carney as Janet
Laura Stumpf as Eddie
Mandy Eckenrode as Riff Raff
Craig Soich as Narrator
Michelle Falcone as Magenta
Ron Clawson as Frank-N-Furter
Kat Grosso as Rocky
Ensemble: Dylan Stramaski, Rebecca Hurlbert, Terri Davis, Vini Costanzo, and Chaz Harmon
Director – Heather Atkinson
Stage Manager – Emily Buckel
Music Director – Sean Thornton
Choreographer – Sam Mitchell
Producer – Bry Zanotelli
Scenic Designer – Dave Fleming
Executive Producer – Jan Gerber
Bonnijean Cooney Adams is a freelance contributor. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Originally published October 27, 2023.