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Don't Dream It, Don't Be It, Don't Watch It: A Not Live Discussion of the Not Live 'Rocky Horror Picture Show'

By Courtney Enlow & Riley Silverman | Liveblogs | October 21, 2016 | Comments ()

By Courtney Enlow & Riley Silverman | Liveblogs | October 21, 2016 |


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Riley: So, okay, I thought maybe before we started talking about this.. whatever it thinks it is, we should maybe say what our history is with Rocky Horror Picture Show? Like why it connects to us or something? What’s your RHPS story?

Courtney: Like a lot of people, Rocky Horror Picture Show was this…I don’t know, this display of “it’s OK to be different” for me. It was being your beautiful, gross, awful, wonderful, sexy, amazing self as a revolutionary act and everything is OK and everything is fine and everything and nothing is ugly or beautiful or gross or clean. Everything just IS and it’s fantastic. And it was my every Halloween in Chicago, the midnight showings at the Music Box, the only way to see it as far as I’m concerned.

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Courtney circa 2006 looking about as scandalous as anyone gets in the Fox production.

I remember trying to show it to friends and they didn’t get it, or they’d think it was weird. Because they thought I was weird, when I was being me and not a sanitized safe-for-school version of me and this was like my attempted outreach. Spoiler alert for the rest of this post: this production feels like the sanitized safe-for-school version of Rocky Horror rather than the real thing. It’s a show about being yourself and being free and this production is neither of those things.

Riley: For me, it would be on TV on FOX or something every Halloween and it was something I kind of stumbled on, and honestly was kind of afraid of. Like I felt like it was definitely something I’d get in trouble for watching. I’d even turn it on and off during its airing like I was afraid someone would walk in on me. A lot of trans people have a lot of issues with Frank-N-Furter, and I get that, but for me he was fascinating. I had never seen someone so brazenly taunt gender before. The bedroom scene where Frank ‘seduces’ Brad and Janet was something that lingered in my brain for so long. I remember as a kid just having this sense of not being able to pin down the character as a man or a woman, which of these characters, if any, were having gay sex or not? I don’t even know if I really had an understanding of what homosexuality, or especially any more fluid concepts of sex or gender were. I just felt really drawn to it and was scared of it at the same time.

I’m a bit ashamed to admit this but I’ve never actually gone to a showing of it. I was always too scared. Because it was such a thing where if I went to it live, I’d want to wear fishnets and lingerie like Frank, but for so long I was TERRIFIED of doing that, so I’d never go. Plus, I don’t feel like I’ve ever had a group of friends who were super into it so no one was trying to get me to go.

I want to add, I’m very pro-remakes in general, as long as they’re well done. I honestly was a bit optimistic about this, because the Grease Live! production was so good. And we’ll get more into this later I’m sure, but I was really excited by Laverne Cox’s casting as Frank. I wanted this to be good.

(Okay, so Riley’s note here, we watched this at different times, so what follows is a conversation mixed in with our mutual live reactions to the production as we experienced them)

(Courtney addendum to Riley’s note there just now: it’s probably a fucking mess but that’s OK because so is this production.)

Riley: Okay, so immediate thoughts on it, one song in and I totally lost any optimism I had for this. I’m just going to say it, I think it was a huge mistake to not do this live. I think it immediately killed what is the fun, unique element of doing a production like this, and I think it kneecaps the energy needed to make it special. I cannot believe that I vastly preferred a production of Grease over Rocky.

“Science Fiction Double Feature” feels so weirdly disconnected, like visually it feels like it wants to be this epic opening, but it’s such a mellow arrangement of the song. If you’re gonna do it as a big production number and not a disembodied pair of lips, then do it big or go home.

Courtney: Seriously, WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT? What was that American Idol bullshit version of this song? I hate it.

And right off the bat, everyone is too pretty and too conventional bodywise.

Riley: Right?! And they all seem bored and I think maybe it’s cause they’re lip synching? It’s just, it all feels really poppy and overproduced and like it should be really high energy but it feels scrubbed and clean.

Courtney: Too pretty, too clean, too pop. I get the feeling none of these children have ever seen RHPS or understand at all why it’s important. It’s Glee meets High School Musical. Ryan Murphy might actually have done a better job with this than Kenny Ortega.

Riley: Okay, so I think we need to talk about the casting on Brad and Janet now. I’m really not on board with either of them. They both just seem far too confident and pretty and I have a hard time believing that this is a couple that isn’t already sexually active.

Courtney: OK real talk? I’m with you on Janet, but I am fully on board with Brad. Like yes he’s too hot but he is Bostwicking up a storm here. HE IS DOING HIS BEST. He gets it. He’s seen this before. He’s got a Matt McGorry on How To Get Away With Murder thing going on. Victoria Justice doesn’t get it. She is too hot and not innocent. She doesn’t have that dumb naive chaste thing Sarandon did.

Riley: Neither one is doing it for me. Brad seems to me like a cool kid who put on a pair of glasses to pretend to be a nerd.

Courtney: I’m so madly in love with Ryan McCartan in this thing IT IS FINE. He is a goddamn joy to behold. Victoria Justice, not so. Oh honey. Not her fault necessarily just a hideous casting choice.

This theater framing device is both under and over used. And everything is so clean and pretty and on purpose. It’s jarring. And the Time Warp? What is happening. There’s not nearly enough people. It’s is like an empty room where backup dancers go to die. They couldn’t get like 10 more people? A smaller room?

Riley: It definitely feels like they structured it to feel like a live show but then since it isn’t it feels so stilted and muted. But I’m into Laverne. I don’t think she can save it. I’m sure that people are gonna try to blame this on her and they can kiss my trans ass cause she’s only the second thing I’ve enjoyed here.

Courtney: I’m loving Laverne but “Sweet Transvestite”…huh. I think it’s the arrangement, it’s a bit off-putting. Everything else has been a Glee-ed up version and this is like a jazzy and it’s a little…odd.

Riley: Honestly Laverne doesn’t really get the chance to shine until much later. I feel like she’s this beautiful ball of fire that’s being kept in a case. The editing here was super frustrating too. They completely botched the antici— moment by cutting to a bunch of reactions, and having the theater audience yell “Say it!” It let the air out of a moment that needs to be tense for a second.

Courtney: Laverne gets it. Columbia and Brad get it. Janet does not get it. Riff Raff…Riff Raff is I don’t even know.

Riley: I think their Riff Raff might be my least favorite thing tbh. Like I feel like he perfectly sums up them not getting it.

Courtney: He’s like everything I hate about this in one character/makeup/hair/acting choice/singing. In another world where Adam Lambert is less famous and important he’s Riff Raff and things are better.

Riley: Okay; Hot Patootie is pretty fun.

Courtney: Hot Patootie is somehow the first boobgrab of the show. Like, LOOK. I am against grabbing body parts but Rocky Horror IS GRABBING BODY PARTS. Even Eddie’s death was too clean. THEY CAN’T EAT HIM IF HE GETS GENTLY THROWN OUT THE WINDOW.

Riley: I feel like Victoria Justice they cast specifically for her singing voice later, and I think she does work well as Janet in the second half. “Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me” is pretty much the same arrangement as the original except I don’t believe for a second that this Janet *just* discovered sex. But her singing is good.

Courtney: Yeah, she’s really really bad at innocent but great at the SOME GETTING.

Riley: TV14 sex scenes are real weird. It’s like “Creature of the Mid To Late Afternoon”

Courtney: It’s not even a sex scene. There’s more sex in The Lion King.

Riley: It’s like synchronized pillow fighting. AND WHAT IS UP WITH ROCKY’S GOLDEN GYM SHORTS? Like, come on. I’m lezzie as hell and even I’m pissed at how toned down Rocky is. And they put him in short bootie shorts during the floor show later, so it’s not like they didn’t have the shorts.

Courtney: MAKE ROCKY’S SHORTS GREAT AGAIN. THIS IS A BAD BAKE. BOTTOM SO SOGGY.

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Riley: How do you tone down a goddamn boy toy who was created for the whole purpose of being Frank’s fuck puppet.

Courtney: If they are going to do literally nothing involving sex why did they pick a show entirely about sex? At this point I’m questioning if Kenny Ortega even saw Rocky Horror, like he’s the only gay choreographer in the world who just like kinda heard of it and went with his basic idea of what it’s about.

Riley: I think there’s something to the nature of being out in 2016 versus when Richard O’Brien was putting this all together in the early 1970’s? Like how effectively can you make a dangerous show about sexuality and gender in a culture that, at least among the people who would want to watch this remake, are living a life that’s way more comfortable with all of this stuff? The only thing that seems remotely challenging to me is reconciling Laverne Cox as a trans woman set against the classic Tim Curry as a cross-dresser. It feels like the only *new* idea in the piece. The rest of it feels like a bunch of young people who aren’t scared of sexuality going “Hey what if this was weird though.”

Courtney: THANK GOD, BEN VEREEN BOUT TO SHOW THESE CHILDREN. He also brought the one genuine LOL, along with my new most precious angelbaby Ryan McCartan who must be protected and who can live in my boozems so I can save him from the bad world, and I had to gif it for science:

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So in this weird G-rated Rocky, they weren’t eating Eddie they were just weirded out by the word “tender.” Because Adam Lambert is fully formed unless they ate his ass.
Which frankly would be the Rocky Horroriest thing about this whole shebang.

Riley: Yeah, I didn’t understand what they were going for in that scene AT ALL.

Courtney: I’m an hour seven minutes in and it only just dawned on me that Christina Milian has been attempting a Transylvania type accent this whole time,

Entirely too much clothing in the floor show. But only on the women, so, progress?

Riley: I feel like Brad and Janet both look too at home in their gold lingerie, and they both look too good in it.

Courtney: I’m so madly in love with Ryan McCartan in this thing IT IS FINE. He is a goddamn joy to behold.

Riley: I like that this is the line in the sand for us.

Actual footage of Courtney and Riley on this Brad thing:

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Courtney: Victoria Justice, not so. Oh honey. Not her fault necessarily just a hideous casting choice. But holy shit Laverne actual human goddess.

Riley: The second half, especially the floor show onward, is where Laverne runs away with it.

Courtney: The pool scene is the only sexual thing in the whole show which FINALLY. If that was too clean I would have rioted. I mean it’s still too clean but not as clean as the rest.

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Riley: AND THEY CUT TO COMMERCIAL DURING THE SONG. WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU PUT A COMMERCIAL BREAK IN THE MIDDLE OF A MUSICAL NUMBER?! And it sucks cause that’s when Laverne was fucking killing it and it muted it completely. Like, you coulda done it when Riff Raff and Magenta came in with the guns.

Courtney: “Your lifestyle’s too extreme.” Henny, nothing in this is too extreme. Unless you’re One Million Moms or something.

Riley: “Rose Tint My World” is my favorite song in the show, and honestly, it’s pretty great, aside from the goddamned commercial break.

Courtney: Laverne is too happy in “I’m Going Home.” Like this should be the desperate smeared makeup sobfest.

Riley: I agree, she hit peak Frank during Rose Tint.

Courtney: OK I cried a little when Tim Curry started singing in Superheroes. Actual tears. I just want to hug him.

Riley: I feel sad for him the entire time.

Courtney: We cannot end on sad a Tim Curry conversation. HERE’S BEN VEREEN BRINGING THE GAMZ.

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And if you need me, I’ll just be doing this for the rest of the day. PEACE OUT.

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Riley: —pation.



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