Time Warp to the Straz for Jobsite’s ‘The Rocky Horror Show’

Mark Wildman (L) as Rocky and Clay Christopher as Dr. Frank-N-Furter. (Photo courtesy James Zambon Productions)

The antici… pation is over for Jobsite Theater and all of its fans.

After 25 seasons, the Straz Center’s resident theater company will present “The Rocky Horror Show” July 10-Aug. 4, a production that became their #1 best-seller weeks before opening night. “This might be one of the most formative shows to me as both an artist and human, but what I’ve never done is to direct the stage show,” says Director David Jenkins, also Jobsite’s co-founder and producing artistic director. “I’ve wanted this for forever, and the right time and place finally came together.”

Jobsite announced “The Rocky Horror Show’s” inclusion as a part of its landmark season last year, promising a unique spin on the “OG kitschy rock ‘n’ roll sci-fi gothic musical.” They called it “a no-brainer for the company,” which has produced memorable versions of fellow cult classics like “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” in recent years.

“Straightlaced Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, stuck with a flat tire during a storm, discover the eerie mansion of Dr. Frank-N-Furter as they look for a phone to call for help,” it’s described. “As their innocence (and more) is stripped away, they encounter a castle-full of wild characters while the not-so-good Dr. and his motley crew unveil his latest creation — a Charles Atlas-inspired beefcake named Rocky.”

The live musical predates the widely celebrated 1975 adaptation “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and is “in many ways very, very different than the film it inspired,” Jobsite notes. Among other things, Rocky has lines, the pacing is much faster and there are additional songs to complement favorites like “Time Warp” and “Sweet Transvestite.”

Audience participation — which has become customary in late-night screenings over the decades — is allowed for Jobsite’s version, but with a few caveats. For one thing, the show is different from the film, so the timing of the lines has changed with fewer pauses in the script.

Jobsite is also asking attendees not to bring props, as bags of props will be sold in the lobby before the show, and to be mindful of the differences between the versions.

“Many AP lines for the film are based on visual cues that will not be present on stage and so that thing you’re yelling out won’t even make sense,” Jenkins explains. “We say this to underscore the majority of your perfectly timed callbacks built up over the years at shadowcast screenings will not work at the live show, and audience members trying to compete with a live show/not the movie might be frustrating to the audience, the cast and maybe even you.”

Jenkins took inspiration from the 1974 cast recording from the Roxy in Los Angeles for Jobsite’s production, describing it as “grittier and more true rock than the film.” He’s also examined more recent versions like the West End’s “Rocky Horror Live.”

Whatever its iteration, “Rocky Horror” is known for its unabashedly proud characters, colorful costumes and unique sets and storyline. It’s all a part of why the property has garnered a large LGBTQ+ fanbase.

Jenkins finds “Rocky Horror” important to the community because it emphasizes being true to yourself. It’s something he first experienced at 14 years old in his native Jacksonville, where he was “both too young” to watch it and instantly “hooked,” becoming a part of the shadowcast within weeks.

“For me, as a cisgender, heterosexual ally, ‘Rocky Horror’ was my entry point into having direct contact with people who didn’t live/love like me and learning, gaining empathy and understanding,” he says. “Especially in a town like Jacksonville in the late 80s, early 90s, the value of that can’t be overstated.”

Jobsite has enlisted an array of local, award-winning performers, a live band and a stacked crew and production team to bring “Rocky Horror” to the stage — including company staple Spencer Meyers. The entertainer plays Riff Raff.

Meyers says he’s loved “Rocky Horror” since he was a teenager and is excited to play the hunchback handyman, one of its most popular antagonists who features prominently in Time Warp.

“I get to be a part of one of the most iconic songs and dances and I get a villainous streak? Sign me up,” he says. “This group has some of the most amazing singers I’ve ever worked with. I’m truly humbled and honored to be in this production with so many talented individuals.”

That includes fan favorite entertainer Matthew McGee, another LGBTQ+ actor taking the stage. He plays The Narrator, also known as The Criminologist.

McGee previously played Dr. Frank-N- Furter in American Stage in the Park’s 2012 production — as well as the role of The Narrator for the first time in 2023. “Rocky Horror” marks his Jobsite debut and he says the show has a “definitive queer property” but also a broader appeal.

“Your grandma enjoys ‘Rocky Horror’ and most likely knows how to do the Time Warp too,” McGee muses. “It’s powerful that this show firmly embraces counterculture so meaningfully while actually bringing people together to celebrate differences.”

He also adds that while “Rocky Horror” is often produced near Halloween, he would “venture to say this play actually works better outside of spooky season.”

“‘Rocky’ works all year round and summer is a great time to beat the heat at The Frankenstein Place,” McGee notes. Also making a Jobsite debut with the production is Clay Christopher, who brings Dr. Frank-N-Furter to life.

Christopher has always dreamed of starring in “Rocky Horror.” Being able to play one of originator Tim Curry’s most-celebrated roles is a lifetime dream come true, he says, especially as a person of color.

“[T]o have the opportunity as a man of color to take on the role has been so important to me,” he says. “Frank is such a delicious character, full of confidence, strength, beauty and yet offers a vulnerability that is moving. How could I not want to dive into his presence?”

He hopes his performance will remind audiences to stay true to themselves.

“This show exclaims and almost demands that people should be who they want to be and to experience their desires; to be who they truly are on the inside,” Christopher shares. “As Frank sings towards the end of the show: ‘Don’t dream it, be it!’ Be who you are and love yourself unconditionally.”

“The Rocky Horror Show” plays July 10-Aug. 4 at Tampa’s Straz Center. Tickets start at $24.50. For more information and to read Jobsite’s full FAQ, visit JobsiteTheater.org.

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