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No Refund Theatre Presents: ‘Rocky Horror Show’

No Refund Theatre returns with the seventh production in its fall catalog. This week, the organization presents “Rocky Horror Show”

Directed by seniors Sam Austin and Lauren Bauer, “Rocky Horror Show” tells the story of Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, a bland pair newly engaged as the picture-perfect couple of the 1950s. Caught in the rain when their car breaks down, the boring duo finds themselves at the doorstep of a strange mansion, owned by the master of the house and mad scientist, Frank-N-Furter. 

Encountering a chorus of spooky phantoms in full-scale musical style, Brad and Janet quickly change their wet clothes and morals as the evening grows long, embracing the chaotic culture of the mansion and fully participating in the group’s festivities despite their core differences from the varied creatures. When the brutal light of day reveals the sins of night, the group is left dazed and confused by the past events and a clear message emerges: staying true to yourself is the key to a life well-lived. 

Written by Richard O’Brien in 1973, the musical comedy has become a cult classic, known across the globe for its iconic score and beloved characters. Loving the show from childhood, the directing duo was eager to take on the well-known script.

“I’ve been wanting to propose this show since my freshman year,” director Sam Austin said. “… And I’ve never had someone I could trust so much in a process, so it’s made it very easy and very enjoyable.”

Finally seeing the opportunity to direct the production post-pandemic, directors Sam Austin and Lauren Bauer both knew they wanted to propose the musical during their senior years and decided to bring the work to No Refund Theatre’s stage together after discovering the other’s passion for the script. 

“While most people would get competitive and compete for the spot, we were like, ‘Why don’t we just do this together?'” Bauer said. “It would be a nice way to end senior year and celebrate our friendship.”

As friends and co-directors, Bauer and Austin split up the workload in a divide-and-conquer approach. With Bauer’s vocal direction and Austin’s choreography, the classic script comes to life while and also adapts to NRT’s stage in Forum 111.

“It’s a smaller space, which is really nice,” sophomore Noah Bauer said. “Forum is really great in that way because it makes the performance feel more intimate.”

Building dynamic technical elements, a multi-level set, and detailed costuming into their take on the classic, the directing duo found the balance between making current choices and preserving the art of the original. Speaking about choreographing iconic numbers such as “Time Warp,” Austin explained the clear challenge. 

“When it’s such an iconic dance like that, you wanna do your own thing,” Austin said “But, you also don’t want to stray too far from the original so people can dance along.

Discussing her role as Columbia, an eccentric servant in Frank’s mansion, senior Lindsey Sabo shared a noteworthy, personal aspect of choreography: tap dancing. 

“Tap has always been one of my favorite kinds of dance,” Sabo said. “Getting to just do it again in my senior year of college was definitely a little ‘close the book’ moment for me.”

In another aspect of flexibility in No Refund Theatre’s interpretation, the cast appears in costumes inspired by original characters but modernized for today. With sequins, bright colors, and dramatic silhouettes, creativity is inspired and pieces are shared, similar to NRT’s homegrown values of teamwork for art. 

“We wanted it to be the iconic characters,” Austin said. “But at the same time, we wanted the actors to be able to make it their own.”

Allowing expression in this simple way, the directing team also worked closely with the cast to enhance the characters by comfortability. Tackling the hyper-intimate moments of the show as lead characters Brad and Janet lose their innocence, the team utilized a slow-and-steady method to work up to the final product. 

“We gave them options,” Austin said. “They’ve been awesome and willing to do pretty much anything that we’ve asked of them.”

Reflecting positivity in her first NRT production as she plays the lead role of Janet, junior Kiara Lynch summarized both her growing comfort and joy for the show made possible by the kindness of the cast and crew.

“Coming up here, I really didn’t know a lot of people at first,” Lynch said. “It was a dream to come here, every single day to practice.”

Lynch’s confidence grew as she tackled the complexities of the role alongside co-star Ethan White. A senior playing the role of Brad with a history in the club, White comically shared just how different the demands of this role were from anything he’s performed before.

“In no NRT role did I have to wear a skirt or heels ever,” White said. “I never thought I’d be doing something like this in my whole life, but it’s something really unique, and I’m loving the creative outlet.”

A clear connection to identity and self-expression, the production also features Frank-N-Furter as representation of the LGBTQ+ community, undeniably progressive for when the production first premiered in 1973. 

“Frank is a queer icon… and as a person assigned male at birth playing a female character, it was similar to playing with gender roles and having fun with it,” Leone said. “It’s a fun twist on stereotypes…because it’s people doing them and just having a fun time.”

Putting its own spin on the content to further the show’s message in the 21st century, the directing duo also made the choice to include gender-bent casting in the role of Rocky, Frank-N-Furter’s companion creation.

“The show is very inclusive and when the movie was made, it was ahead of its time,” Bauer said. “So, we wanted to pay tribute to that in its own way, and we wanted to make it as gender-fluid in casting as possible.”

With modern choices to fulfill the show’s originality, junior Jacob Malizio spoke to the overall theme of No Refund Theatre’s adaptation of “Rocky Horror Show” 

“It’s a phenomenon really,” Malizio said. “I just hope that the audience has a fun time and can appreciate the history of the show that we’re paying homage to.”

Audience in mind, the production also includes a variety of interactive components, directly from the Rocky Horror fandom showing up for the film decades later. 

“The biggest thing about ‘Rocky Horror’ is that you have to expect the unexpected,” Bauer said. “The only thing missing right now is an audience because honestly, the audience is the show as much as the cast is the show.”

From scheduled calling out to props, audiences can expect to fit in as the last piece of the puzzle and enjoy a truly collaborative experience unique to the NRT stage. 

“We just want it to be a huge, community event,” Austin said. “I’m just excited for people to see it and be able to interact with it.” 

Three performances of “Rocky Horror Show” will play at 8 p.m. on Thursday, November 4, Friday, November 5, and Saturday, November 6 in Forum 111. A trigger warning is emphasized for sexual content, violence, and language. 

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About the Author

Lizzie Palmieri

Lizzie is a junior majoring in marketing and psychology from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Ask her about Disney World, Diet Pepsi, or dancing on the Jumbotron at Beaver Stadium. When not causing general trouble, Lizzie enjoys playing golf, performing in the theatre, and being the CEO of reorganizing the fridge. Her favorite thing to do is hang out with her sassy sidekick, 18-year-old Italian Greyhound, Macaroni. Follow her on Twitter @lizziepalmieri if your deepest desire is bestie vibes only.

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