Thursday, June 13, 2024

The cast of Moonbox Productions’ “Rocky Horror Show.” (Photo: Sharman Altshuler)

Recent developments in Harvard Square have been pretty depressing. An entire block of buildings that once housed the World’s Only Curious George Store as well as my dentist’s office is now kaput, torn down to make way for – get this – a mall. Storefronts that once held funky shops are now banks, or empty. Cheap restaurants have all but disappeared.

From now until Nov. 2, however, Harvard Square gets its mojo back with Moonbox Productions’ electrifying, dynamic and sexy “The Rocky Horror Show.” (Interestingly enough, the film version of the stage show ran at midnight for 28 years at another empty space, the AMC Loews Harvard Square 5.) The bold and beautiful signs that adorns the windows and door of the former site of Hidden Sweets is the tipoff: This is no ordinary production.

Alexander Boyle as Brad and Peter Mill as Frank N. Furter in “Rocky Horror.” (Photo: Sharman Altshuler)

The former candy shop has been transformed into the perfect setting for the larger-than-life cast. Cameron McEachern’s two-tiered set dominates the back wall, with a large playing area flanked by an audience on three sides. While the action takes place in this area, the intimacy of the space, aided by Sam L. Biondolillo’s dusky purple lighting and David Lucey’s seamless direction, makes for an extremely immersive experience. It’s fun and, more importantly, risky. Neither Lucey nor his actors play it safe, which is what makes it so edgy and fun.

A sendoff on science fiction and B horror movies, “The Rocky Horror Show” begins with two Usherettes, Lori L’Italien and Brad Foster Reinking (they double as Magenta and Riff Raff), setting us up with the song “Science Fiction/Double Feature.” Meanwhile, newly engaged couple Brad and Janet (Alexander Boyle and Carly Grayson) are lost while driving. When their car breaks down during a storm, they decide to walk to a nearby castle to use a telephone. Once they get there, they meet the compelling, attractive and amoral Frank N. Furter (Peter Mill) a capricious transvestite who has just concocted a sexual playmate in his laboratory: the well-muscled Rocky Horror (Jared Scott Miller). Frank manages to seduce Brad and Janet, much to their shame and delight, but when Janet in turn seduces Rocky, Frank is incensed. He is clearly a man who likes to be in charge. Unfortunately for Frank, so do Riff Raff and Magenta. A Narrator (Alex Jacobs) and a bevy of gorgeous slithering and singing Phantoms (Jaclyn Chylinski, Max Currie, Kaedon Gray, Shalyn Grow, Shane Hennessey, Janis Hudson, Maggie Markham and Zachary D. McConnell) help keep the action moving.

Moonbox has assembled a first-rate cast. L’Italien and Reinking are disdainful and sneering in their roles, even while being subservient to Frank’s nastiness. Boyle is boyish and woeful as Brad, and does a heartbreaking version of “Once in A While.” Grayson shines as the bubbly, naïve and sexually awakened Janet. Shonna Cirone does an amazing job as Eddie, the unfortunate delivery boy, in love with Columbia (Kristen Ivy Hayes, a strong vocalist). But it is Mill who truly makes this show what it is. His Frank is commanding, perverse and funny as hell. When he says, in all sincerity, after causing undue chaos and heartbreak that “It’s not easy having a good time,” it’s freaking hilarious. He owns the stage, prowling around like a lion on the loose. It’s hard – even as he’s doing some very bad things – not to find him attractive. By the time he sings a killer rendition of “I’m Going Home,” you almost wish he wouldn’t.

Fans of the show, trust me: You do not want to miss this. The first thing I did when I left the theater was to text my friends, “YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS ROCKY HORROR!!!” Now I’m telling you.

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