Nathan Halvorson remembers the first time he saw it. He was in high school, growing up in Sioux City, Iowa. It changed his life.
“I had always heard about ‘Rocky Horror,’ but I’d never seen it up until that point,” Halvorson said. He is directing the penultimate production of Penobscot Theatre Company’s 40th anniversary season, “The Rocky Horror Show,” which opens Thursday, June 12 at the Bangor Opera House.
“Seeing the movie changed my life,” he said. “It absolutely did. I was 14. I had never seen anything like it before.”
PTC Artistic Director Bari Newport also remembers her first time, which was in high school, too, though it was under different circumstances.
“I remember it was one of my first times driving a car, and it really scared me,” said Newport, who grew up in Stamford, Connecticut. “I also remember that [rock singer] Meatloaf actually lived in our community and coached Little League. I saw him on screen and thought, ‘Hey, I know that guy!’”
Regardless of what kind of reaction one has to their first time seeing “Rocky Horror” — whether it’s the cult classic 1975 movie musical or the stage show, simply titled “The Rocky Horror Show” — it’s almost always a memorable experience. For Halvorson, it was a validation of all the things he secretly longed for.
“I was a closeted kid. I was really frustrated and very creative, and here was this movie that was telling me that it was OK to be different, to be who you are, to embrace weirdness,” Halvorson said. “And I think that message still resonates even today. It still feels fresh.”
PTC’s “Rocky” caps off a season that’s seen everything from a charming holiday family friendly show in “Cinderella” to a darkly funny modern classic, “God of Carnage.” It also sees PTC mainstay Dominick Varney stepping into those iconic platform boots, as he takes on the role of the lascivious, androgynous mad scientist Dr. Frank N. Furter. Varney’s head is shaved, his face is heavily made up and he’ll be sporting an array of fabulous, freaky costumes designed by Lex Liang.
Brad and Janet, the naive newlywed party-crashers at Frank’s soiree, are played by Ira Kramer — last seen as the Prince in PTC’s “Cinderella” — and Brienne Beck. They’re met at the door by Frank’s seriously strange “servants,” Riff Raff, played by Justin Chamberlain, lead singer and guitarist of local band One Shot Nothing; Magenta, played by Heather Astbury Libby, lead singer of local 80s cover band Rock Revelation; and Frank’s mega fan, Columbia, played by Christie Robinson. Insanity ensues.
Newport chose “Rocky” as this year’s season closer because, as she put it, she wanted to end with a bang, and the dual anniversary of the show’s 1974 American debut in conjunction with PTC’s 40th season was too good to ignore. Don’t worry, fans of the movie: Audience participation goodie bags will be available to purchase at the box office.
“It felt right, and it’s just such a fun show,” Newport said. “I’ve been hearing from people downtown about how excited they are that we’re doing this show in particular. There are a lot of people out there who really feel a connection to it.”
“The Rocky Horror Show” will run for three weekends June 12-28, with performances set for 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 5 and 10 p.m. Saturdays; and 5 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $25, but there will be a limited number of $10 student rush tickets available at the box office one hour before each show. The show is recommended for mature audiences.
Correction: A previous version of this story erroneously stated the last Penobscot Theatre role played by Ira Kramer.