Theater Review: ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ at Gateway Playhouse

Rocky Horror
Matthew LaBanca (Frank-N-Furter), Josh Canfield (Rocky), Lisa Karlin (Magenta) and Mychal Phillips (Columbia) in The Rocky Horror Show Photo: Jeff Bellante

The Gateway Playhouse concludes its 2016 season with a show so spectacular it’s obvious why it has such a devoted following. Directed by Keith Andrews, The Rocky Horror Show is a phenomenon that you cannot miss. If you’ve never seen it, you should—and if you have seen it, Gateway’s production will not disappoint!

From the moment the show begins, you’re more than just a spectator along for the ride. It’s the kind of performance that may take a minute for you to wrap your head around, but once you get it, you won’t want to let the feeling go. The story takes hold of your sense, captures your mind and, before long, you, too, will be doing the Time Warp again and again.

The gyrating, flamboyant and sexy spectacle that is The Rocky Horror Show wastes no time getting to the crux of the story. The Narrator (charismatic Geoffrey Owns) takes us on this bizarre journey that follows Brad and Janet (Harley Jay and Emily Behny, respectively), a newly engaged couple on their way home from their friends’ wedding. Brad and Janet end up driving through a nasty rainstorm when their car gets a flat tire. The two set off through the downpour in search of shelter and come across a castle. There’s a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor that will make you giggle—bang those knockers, Brad—and some that will make you laugh out loud.

Emily Behny and Harley Jay (as Janet and Brad) in The Rocky Horror Show. Photo: Jeff Bellante
Emily Behny and Harley Jay (as Janet and Brad) in The Rocky Horror Show.
Photo: Jeff Bellante

Brad and Janet are greeted at the castle doors by Riff-Raff (Courter Simmons), an odd character with a hunchback. He and his equally strange sister, Magenta (Lisa Karlin), perform one of the show’s most iconic numbers, “The Time Warp,” along with the castle’s other guests who’ve gathered. The scene is delightful and contagious—all you want to do is get up and dance.

The moment you lay your eyes on Dr. Frank-N-Furter you are captivated. Matthew LaBanca, as the pansexual Frank-N-Furter, is utterly amazing—compelling in every way—and he can pull off those platform heels and skimpy outfits while embodying the eccentric “Sweet Transvestite” from Transsexual, Transylvania, perfectly. He channels Tim Curry’s iconic portrayal of the doctor, and with a strong voice to match.

The entire show is an homage to classic science fiction and, in keeping with that theme, Dr. Frank-N-Furter has created a man by some nefarious means. It just so happens that the night Brad and Janet appear at the castle is the night the doctor is to bring his creation to life. Rocky Horror, played by the talented and toned Josh Canfield, is not as submissive as perhaps the doctor was hoping. LaBanca belts out a fantastic rendition of “I Can Make You a Man” and we fall deeper under his spell. By now, the straight-laced Brad and Janet are fully freaked out. As the night continues they’re thrust into separate rooms and both are seduced by Frank-N-Furter in disguise.

The absurdities of the events that follow make for a memorable performance put on by a stellar cast that plays the characters straight. If the show itself is ridiculous, why push it over the top with hammy acting? In the capable hands of the lead actors, Rocky Horror is not only entertaining, it’s an immersive, believable experience. It’s easy to see why this story, in all its iterations, has had such an impressive and loyal following since it first premiered in 1973. From beginning to end, The Rocky Horror Show has you under its spell.

The Rocky Horror Show is playing at the Gateway Playhouse through September 10, with a special midnight performance on September 9. For tickets and information visit

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