Rocky Horror: stage v. screen

We know that most folks know THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW through the adaptation of it that was made as a film, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. We also understand that most folks’ experience with ROCKY comes from midnight showings with shadowcasts and rowdy audience participation. It’s important for us to provide as much context as possible about what folks are (and are not) getting into so as to not create any disappointment.

The TL;DR: the original live stage show is in many ways very, very different than the film it inspired. Transmedial adaptation necessarily creates some pretty huge changes, as you might know from your favorite book or graphic novel becoming a movie or series. That happens when plays get adapted into musicals, or plays or musicals into film. Stage is very different than screen and what is desirable/effective in one format is not always the case in the other.

We not only offer all this to manage expectations but also as support of why we are asking that people consider all this when trying to participate — it’s not the movie and we don’t want it to be!

So what would we say are the significant changes/differences from the film to the OG?

  • The film begins and ends with disembodied lips (that belonged to Magenta actor Patricia Quinn, but the voice was provided by Riff Raff actor Richard O’Brien), but the stage show begins with a greeting from Usherette (in this case 2 Usherettes, our Magenta and Columbia actors). The song, “Science Fiction Double Feature,” is much much faster in tempo and has a more 1950s sound than the movie.
  • In general, the music in this production is faster-paced and just hits different than the film. Our inspiration comes from the 1973 stage production in Los Angeles, which also came before the film, that features a soundtrack that simply say SLAPS. You’ll hear very different orchestrations/arrangements including a lot of harmonies you’ve likely not heard before.
  • Film is a visual medium, and so the movie naturally has a lot more locations the show is set in. The stage show takes place on a single stage, a great room in Frank’s castle, with a few other scenes occurring isolated in pools of light with smaller scenic elements. 
  • In contrast, since live theater demands electricity and excitement, the stage show is generally faster, higher in energy, and so will naturally have a quicker tempo and fewer pauses (again, making it hard to try to squeeze in every AP line you know).
  • Things simply happen in a different sequence in the original stage show than what was done for the film.
  • The stage show has a presence from start to finish not in the film, the Phantoms, who serve like a chorus. At the start of the show Brad and Janet are not even aware of their presence, but the spectral forces guide the unwitting couple into the castle and along their journey that fateful night.
  • Brad has a whole verse in “Over at the Frankenstein Place” that does not appear in the movie. He also has a whole song in the stage show not in the film, “Once in a While,” which follows “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me.”
  • In the stage show Rocky is intelligent and has several scenes with dialogue, all cut from the film.
  • In general, there is a lot of dialogue in the stage show that does not appear in the movie, and the movie also has dialogue not in the stage show.
  • Frank does not give the spark of life to Rocky in front of a group of Transylvanian “conventionists,” but does so speaking to Brad and Janet.
  • The actor who plays Eddie in the stage show also plays Dr. Scott, and the song “Eddie’s Teddy” is performed as it was in the 1973 Roxy production — much more Southern Baptist revival not German Doo-wap. Our director has given this actor Walton Goggins’ work on The Righteous Gemstones as inspiration (so no German accent at all, well, maybe for a second once).
  • There’s no dinner scene (and so no party hats or toasts) in the stage show, meaning, too, that Frank does not feed Eddie to the guests.
  • Frank doesn’t turn anyone to stone in the stage show. Rather, Riff Raff gasses the Earthlings to knock them out and when Columbia is gasses it just gets her really, really high.
  • Depending on the version of the film you know, the second-to-last song in the show is not in the film. Originally, “Super Heroes” (a Brad and Janet duet after the castle blasts back off into space) was cut from the release of the film, but later restored in some cuts around the country. 

We think we got the big ones, but we may have missed some of the changes. We hope this helps underscore some things for die-hard movies of the film. This is not that thing, and we aren’t going after that thing. But, we do promise this unique experience is going to be every bit as much fun as you can have in a live theater! Hope to see you soon!

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