Having a theater background, I am accustomed to seeing different productions of a show from different companies. For me, remakes of films also fall into this category, although I'm not suggesting that remakes are necessarily needed. When The Rocky Horror Picture Show was announced on Fox, I was incredibly nervous. This is not an ideal musical for a primetime network, and let's be honest, no one could ever fill Tim Curry's heels in the iconic role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter. I've spent over 30 years with the beloved original and have memorized every intonation, nuance and cadence. To my surprise, I found the new production to be fun, energetic, vividly candy-colored, and incredibly strange. If you're going to remake a turd, might as well polish it up.
The biggest concern was the original's lascivious nature, suggestive humor, weirdness, and unapologetic queerness. Moving this to a major network during primetime was inevitably going to tame down the production which is a shame given it's subversive, anti-establishment roots. Thankfully, the lyrics remained mostly untouched. And, Laverne Cox while an inspired choice as the sweet transvestite from transexual Transylvania provided a substantial question mark in the gender politics debate.
I enjoyed the cast. Reeve Carney as Riff Raff was his usual delight. Ryan McCartan as Brad Majors was adorable and could SING! Victoria Justice as Janet was precious. And Annaleigh Ashford and Christina Milian as Columbia and Magenta were kooky wonderful. Staz Nair as Rocky stole every scene with his mugging and physical comedy – quite a feat considering he has such few lines and meant only to be screen candy. And I loved seeing our beloved Tim Curry, who suffered a major stroke in 2012, as the narrator.
There were some stumbles. Dr. Frank-N-Further's first appearance should have been showstopping. Instead she was swung in on a crane wearing some weird head mask. The miscast Adam Lambert brought the house party to a shrieking halt. Also unnecessary was the audience partici...pation that broke the fourth wall. The movie within a movie conceit was a nod to fans of the original's midnight showings where the audience calls back with fill-in lines and props. Adding this in for the TV version took you right out of the moment.
Ultimately, I realized that this remake is not for us old, haggard fans, but for a new generation who are seeing Rocky Horror for the first time. It should also be noted that for a major network to embrace something so strangely queer with a trans woman in the lead is quite the milestone. Nostalgia is wonderful but at times it can be a little toxic at not letting us move ahead with new things. Was this remake perfect? No. But it was fun, decadent, and light entertainment for the Halloween season and it gave me some terrible thrills.