Exclusive: A Sneak Peek at the Costumes for Fox’s Rocky Horror BY RUTHIE FIERBERG OCT 11, 2016
In his second outing working on a giant television musical event, Tony-winning costume designer William Ivey Long does the time warp again, this time trading ’50s greasers for ’70s fettish and glam rock.
“Eddie’s type killed glam rock,” says Long of the grunge look for the character played by Adam Lambert. “In ’73, glam rock is born, and Bowie is glam rock. It lasts supremely from ’73-’75, and that is when the Sex Pistols come in. If you think about it, the Sex Pistols killed glam rock. The idea was that Eddie and his crowd would be the Sex Pistols. This rock ‘n’ roll, torn and ripped, totally smashed the elegant, pulled-together glam rock.”
Nothing captures that more than a hand-painted skull on the back of Eddie’s leather jacket—a piece that Long loves. “I wish I didn’t have a brand, because I would love to put this on the back of one of my blazers.”
Time is fleeting, indeed: It’s been 41 years since The Rocky Horror Picture Show made its first very fleeting appearance in movie theaters, and just a little less than that since it turned into a full-fledged cultural phenomenon via midnight revival screenings. Needless to say, most of those involved with Fox’s Oct. 20 TV-movie remake are too young to claim membership in the original cult — including music producer Cisco Adler, who, having been born in 1978, was wearing diapers when the original fans were putting on garter belts.
But when Adler says the movie and stage show are “literally in my blood,” he’s only stretching the literal a little. There’s that telltale last name: The 38-year-old is the son of Lou Adler, the rock and film impresario who brought the London stage production of Rocky Horror to America and then produced the 1975 feature film. Needless to say, maybe, the younger Adler is one of the few people in the world who never really experienced a Frank-N-Furter-free childhood. “It’s crazy how early those memories are in my head,” says Cisco. “It’s always the anniversaries that stick out, but I can remember dressing up as Riff Raff at 7 years old. I’m very proud of the patch it holds on my quilt of weirdness. Now I have the same sort of care for this franchise that my dad does — it’s the family crest.”
Lou Adler appointed Cisco, who’d worked with Shwayze and other L.A. rock and hip-hop acts, to oversee the music for what ended up being called The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again. The movie’s soundtrack album goes on sale Oct. 21, the morning after the Fox premiere, and what fans of the song score will hear is very much an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” production, with no contemporizing to speak of. Which is not to say that it’s a straight remake of the movie soundtrack; Cisco Adler also has the gazillion international stage cast albums still circulating in his bloodstream as influences, too.
“Not so much for myself, but I definitely had the players brush up on certain versions before we went in and made our own version,” Adler says. “This music has been done many, many times, not just once for the film, and there are a million reference points or compass points, so you just have to choose which ones you want to go to and go. They’re great songs, so that always leads the way.” Departures from any past version were few, although “’Time Warp’ during the tap dance breakdown turns into a sort of James Brown-esque build, and that’s something that wasn’t really there before, but I think it feels right at home. It was important that anything different felt at home and on purpose and wasn’t just changing something to change it.
“Personally,” Adler adds, “I sort of went off of intuition and memory. But [director] Kenny Ortega was always very fond of the Roxy play cast version, and it was a little more boogie-woogie. So I think we definitely leaned into that. You know, the talk was always around Laverne Cox’s character being a sort of Tina Turner compared to Tim Curry’s Frank-N-Furter, which was obviously more glam/London. I think we just tried to take the music down South. With the way the guitars were attacked and stuff like that, we were looking for that sort of classic rock ‘n’ roll boogie that we all know originated in the South.”
It is interesting that, although we associate Rocky Horror with the glitter-rock era, for obvious reasons of makeup as well as music, the style of the more rocking numbers has that basic boogie. But Adler points out that that isn’t uncharacteristic of David Bowie, Mott the Hoople, T. Rex, or other Brit-champs of that mid-‘70s era. “Listen, glam-rock is Southern rock with makeup, so that’s where we went,” he says with a laugh. “You know, there’s a reason Bowie went to Muscle Shoals [in Alabama] to record.”
As faithful as the new movie and soundtrack generally are to the four-decade-old source material, the most obvious point of departure is obviously going to come with Cox, the Orange is the New Black star, as the “sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania.” You can’t exactly call any casting that happens in this role casting against gender, but the role is identified with a man with a fairly deep, if fairly effeminate, voice. So giving it to a woman, even if she’s a woman with some history as a man, can’t help but transform the role.
“She’s a force,” says Adler of Cox. “And she was already this part when she walked in the door to cut those first tracks. She was the most realized character, because she was the first cast. But her voice is super-interesting. The fact that she still has range from her male vocal range as well as this new female vocal range gave us the ability to play with that and really give context to this character being a blurred line of gender. She’s just amazing. People who hear her voice get that look in their eye and their ears perk up. She added a sort of dark thing to the vocal that I don’t think was there before; I think it added a whole bunch of other implications and notions to the character and to the lyrics. And Laverne has the most songs” — eight numbers that are mostly or entirely solo — “so the character develops over more songs than the other characters. With ‘I’m Going Home,’ we ended up keeping the take that is just a piano/vocal take from her screen test, because it was just so powerful, and she was almost exhausted and crying by the end of it. She always says that playing this part felt like she was going home. She was meant to play it.”
On the other end of the scale — character-wise, and octave-wise — is the character Janet, who gets some classic Broadway ingénue material early on and a sexual awakening later. The natural casting for that role was Victoria Justice, practically the only tween-TV star of the ‘00s left who hadn’t already told the world that “I wanna be dirty,” as Janet eventually does.
The ex-Zoey 101/Victorious star “turned out so perfect as our damsel in distress,” says Adler, “and even though she has a similar vocal quality as Susan [Sarandon], it’s definitely her own thing and her own persona. With her coming from the Disney/Nickelodeon world, and guess what, she’s singing a song called ‘Touch a Touch a Touch a Touch Me’ in her underwear — get ready, world.”
Adam Lambert is in the Meat Loaf role, which consisted of just one song (“Hot Patootie”). But if that one song was enough to make Mr. Loaf a star, maybe it’s enough for the celebrated Idol alumnus. (Or maybe not, since, unlike the definitely deceased Meat of the mid-‘70s, Lambert gets a post-death curtain call in this one to duet on the closing reprise of “Science Fiction Double Feature.”)
“Hot Patootie” is “one of the most anticipated songs, obviously, behind ‘Time Warp’ and maybe ‘Sweet Transvestite,’” Adler says. “And Meat Loaf’s performance was so legendary, and a moment in an actual moment. But Lambert came in and killed it. He’s a vocal acrobat. He’s singing with Queen on a daily basis, so he’s got the highest level of rock ‘n’ roll singer chops going right now. He came in and just devoured that song. The talent is ingrained in him — he doesn’t have to warm up, he doesn’t have to work. He opens his mouth and it comes out like that.”
Cisco was in the weird position of giving all these actor/singers, or singer/actors, their first real direction as their characters, months before cameras rolled. “I don’t think doing the movie live ever came up,” Adler says, pointing up the difference between this and other recent TV musicals like The Wiz and Grease. “So we were able to really approach it like making a record. The catch was that the casting was going on while we had already started recording, which was super-interesting. A role would get cast, and sometimes we’d have to go back and change the key to make sure it fit whoever it was. And then character development was going on in the studio, because this was the first time these people were becoming that character, and they would have to stick to it, however many months later, when they went into filming” and had to lip-sync to their earlier audio portrayal.
How relevant will fans (or detractors) find a new Rocky Horror in 2016? It’s hard to say, though a couple of the soundtrack songs have already been made available for streaming preview, and the first 25 minutes of the TV film was previewed at this year’s Comic-Con, to mostly positive fan reaction, if hardly universal acclaim. Whatever its merits or demerits, any Rocky remake arrives in a vastly different climate than the mid-‘70s. Then, sexual transgression felt truly transgressive, and not a nearly quaint trope. What tends to get lost is contemporary discussions of the musical is how deftly creator/songwriter Richard O’Brien paid tribute to the innocence, musical styles, and sci-fi conventions of a previous era before affectionately demolishing them.
In 1975, The Day the Earth Stood Still — one of the movies mentioned in the opening “Science Fiction Double Feature” number — was less than a quarter-century old; nearly twice as much time has passed between these two versions of Rocky Horror as passed between the Michael Rennie era and the first film. It’s no wonder that this new version opens with the actress singing the theme song walking past posters for the old movies being cited; otherwise, it was probably reasoned, younger viewers might not have the slightest idea what’s being sung about. If the original musical was a brilliant metaphor for the ‘50s giving way to the alien-ness of the countercultural and sexual revolution, that’s a theme that will be largely lost on millennials who’ve never known anything but the openness to “absolute pleasure” that Rocky Horror’s aliens cross galaxies to share with unsuspecting debutantes.
But maybe Rocky Horror can transcend generations sans any specific cultural context, because the pelvic thrust is the universal language.
Adler knows a few Rocky Horror fans have trash-talked the remake, sight unseen. “Of course!” he says. “And God bless them, right? As long as people are talking, I think that’s a good sign. For me personally, there was definitely trepidation, or at least a realization that there was going to be those people who hold this so dear that nothing could ever even be done after it. And surprisingly, the reactions have been amazing from hardcore fans most importantly, and the people you would think would be instantly averse to this have been welcoming. I think the more they see and the more they hear, they’re going to realize it was made for them and it’s exactly what they would want it to be.”
Laverne Cox rocks ‘Rocky Horror’ remake By David Wiegand
Laverne Cox, above, flanked by Ryan McCartan and Victoria Justice, plays Dr. Frank N Furter in the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” remake. Tim Curry, below, who played the doctor in the original 1975 film, returns as the narrator. Laverne Cox, above, flanked by Ryan McCartan and Victoria Justice, plays Dr. Frank N Furter in the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” remake. Tim Curry, below, who played the doctor in the original 1975 film, returns as the narrator.
“Let’s Do the Time Warp Again.” And again and again.
Fox premieres a new adaptation of the campy 1973 stage musical “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” on Thursday, Oct. 20. The film may have some minor flaws, but you will easily overlook them because if you don’t, Laverne Cox is going to set you, well, not “straight,” in this case.
Cox not only plays the central character of Dr. Frank N Furter, but she also nearly takes complete ownership of the entire production and would succeed if it weren’t for terrific work by the other cast members: Reeve Carney as handyman Riff Raff, Victoria Justice as the virginal Janet Weiss and Ryan McCartan as the virginal Brad Majors, Annaleigh Ashford as a blue-tongued groupie Columbia, Staz Nair as the mad doctor’s hunky creation Rocky Horror, Christina Milian as the sexy, trampy Domestic and Adam Lambert in a showstopping cameo as Eddie, the Ex Delivery Boy.
REVIEW: 'Rocky Horror Show' doesn't erase original's memory BRUCE R. MILLER [email protected]
It’s impossible to walk in Tim Curry’s high heels – which we learn quite early on in the new edition of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show" (subtitled "Let's Do the Time Warp Again").
Because he trafficked in androgyny, Curry made the film a big guessing game. Now, with transgender actress Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, that element is gone.
As glamorous as Beyonce, as pointed as Joan Crawford, she never makes us scared to venture further. And that, I think I remember, was what made the original so compelling.
In the reboot, which airs Thursday on Fox, Frank-N-Furter’s castle is quite the spectacle. In addition to a full-sized theater, it boasts a ‘50s-era security system, plenty of closets and a sonic oscillator that could have been used at a KISS concert.
Indeed, no expense has been spared on this (right down to the Mary Shelley gravestone) but it’s not as frightening as it should be. In many ways, this picture show is like the ending of “Grease” – tarted up, not threatening.
Certainly, things begin well. The Usherette (Ivy Levan) brings the audience into the theater and offers a good glimpse of the interaction that emerged after the 1975 film became a cult hit. Then, it’s a short trip to Brad and Janet-land where those recently engaged lovers (played by Ryan McCartan and Victoria Justice) get caught in the rain, stop for help and get pulled into the world of Riff Raff (Reeve Carney), Magenta (Christina Milian) and Frank.
Curry turns up, too, as the narrator/criminologist who tries to help newbies along. The part isn’t all that necessary but it does provide a bridge between generations and a scene closer for commercials. Loosely based on the “Frankenstein” story, “Rocky Horror” lets Frank-N-Furter create a fit creature she calls Rocky (Staz Nair). Dressed in jiggly gold lame boxers (why, we don’t know), he becomes a bit of a plaything and a temptation for Janet, who’s used to the straight-arrow Brad.
Frank-N-Furter corrupts Brad, too, and, before you know it, everyone is dancing to a different tune. While Cox is great at approximating everyone from Tina Turner to Grace Jones (costuming helps), she doesn’t have that “is she or isn’t she?” quality the role needs. A scene in which she’s dressed as a man might have helped a great deal.
Instead, director Kenny Ortega lets this be Cox’s audition for every great female role on Broadway. And, yes, she delivers. Her floor show is pretty spectacular. Her solo turns aren’t bad, either.
Adam Lambert, though, wins the performance trophy with his oh-so-brief turn as Eddie. He steals the show, then disappears.
Justice seems a little more worldly than her predecessor (at least in her choice of underwear) and McCartan could be cast in a Christopher Reeve biopic tomorrow.
William Ivey Long has given them all spectacular costumes; the sets never seem to end and the choreography is enough to make you want to do “The Time Warp” again and again.
Part Cirque du Soleil, part Broadway revival, this “Rocky Horror Picture Show” won’t erase the memory of the original but it could spark greater attendance at those midnight showings. It’s like a “Glee” episode that featured a very special cast, not a star who could make you question everything you believed before you entered in.
"The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again" airs at 7 p.m. Thursday on Fox.
'Rocky Horror' time-warps to a new generation Andrea Mandell , USA TODAY 3:37 p.m. EDT October 18, 2016
The freshly vamped Dr. Frank-N-Furter will see you now.
The castle door to Fox's The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again swings open Oct. 20 (8 ET/PT), revealing a two-hour homage to the 1975 cult classic celebrating sexual fluidity, fishnets and flying popcorn.
A fresh face leads the effort. Laverne Cox is taking over for Tim Curry in the indelible role of the mad scientist, though she's channeling "60% Grace Jones, 30% Tina Turner and 10% Beyoncé,” she says, recalling pointers given from director/choreographer Kenny Ortega (High School Musical).
As Frank-N-Furter, a flame-haired Cox seduces and sings in Rocky-red lipstick and winged eyeliner, with a freshly devoted Riff Raff (Reeve Carney), Columbia (Annaleigh Ashford) and Magenta (Christina Milian) at her beck and call.
The actress, who rose to fame on Orange Is the New Black, says she first saw Rocky Horror in college.
“I immediately just connected with the campiness of it all, and the music," Cox says. "I went out and got the soundtrack immediately and learned all the songs. There was something so sexy and coquettish about Dr. Frank-N-Furter that I really connected with."
It's no surprise that everyone involved in the Fox update had a first-time story.
"I was about 19 or 20 and I went to a screening," says Adam Lambert, who takes over for Meat Loaf in the role of doomed gearhead (and Frank-N-Furter foe) Eddie. "I dressed up like a freak and had a great time," he laughs.
But those behind the project, scheduled just in time for Halloween, knew obstacles awaited in re-creating the Time Warp 41 years after the film's release. For decades, midnight performances of Rocky Horror have been a pop-culture mainstay, with fans queuing up in boas, garters and heels. To date, the film has raked in $112 million at the box office.
And before the Twitterverse implodes, fans should know it's not a straight remake, OK? "It is a tribute to Rocky Horror,” says Ben Vereen, who takes on the role of Dr. Everett von Scott. "It’s today’s interpretation of all those who had been before us doing the Rocky Horror music show.”
The film blends the play's audience participation with plot: In various scenes, cameras pull out to show movie-theater fans throwing popcorn and taking "It's a jump to the left/And then a step to the right/With your hand on your hips/You bring your knees in tight/But it's the pelvic thrust/They really drive you insane/Let's do the Time Warp again!"
“We need to introduce it to this generation, because I feel a lot of people my age and younger have never even heard of it.” says Victoria Justice, who at 23 steps away from her years on Nickelodeon's more kid-friendly Victorious with the role of the virginal Janet (memorably played by Susan Sarandon) and spends much of the movie clad in a scant white bra and slip, as Sarandon did.
"This is the first time that mainstream America and people who remember me mainly from Victorious are going to realize, ‘Oh, OK, she’s not a 17-year-old high-schooler anymore,'" Justice says. "She’s an adult and is growing up, and is going to be taking on roles that reflect that. Not that I’m saying that every role I need to do in my bra and underwear!”
Rocky Horror has long been viewed as a haven for individuality, and the remake embraces the campy, subversive themes that made the original (a box office dud in 1975) a lasting sensation.
“The thing that’s so brilliant about it is, you sit and watch it and you realize it was pretty shocking for its time,” says Lambert, an American Idol finalist who initially connected to "the glam of it all. I loved the message, sort of like, 'This is me, and I can be anything.'"
Justice calls Rocky Horror a movie “that's for anyone who has ever felt like an outcast or that they were weird or different or didn’t even fit into a specific gender category. ... Who cares if you’re a guy and you want to dress up like a girl sometimes? Who cares if you want to make out with a girl? Do whatever you want to do! Just be true and authentic to who you are. This movie, that’s what it’s all about.”
Fans will be relieved to find the remake's plot — and most of the dialogue — untouched from the original. Unlike other recent musicals, performed live, the film was shot earlier this year in Toronto, and the cast bonded by doing trust falls with each other at the start of rehearsal.
And Curry, 70, gave his stamp of approval to the project by signing on.
The actor, who suffered a stroke in 2012, has been confined to a wheelchair and is still best known for his vampy Frank-N-Furter, appears in the update as the Narrator/Criminologist, though it may not have been his first choice. “I actually offered myself as Dr. Scott, because I was already in a wheelchair,” he said in August. “They thought the narrator was a better fit, and I enjoyed it a lot.”
Vereen remembers Curry being “happy to be there. When he was on the set, and he was doing the Narrator, there were tears" from the cast. He was brilliant. When you know what he’s been through, and where he’s at right now in his life, and you see that performance, you’ve got to just stand up and give homage and say bravo, a standing ovation."
But even with Curry at her side, Cox knew it was no small feat to take the reigns of the iconic character. Today the trans actress is pragmatic about the dated terminology involved in Frank-N-Furter, who identifies as a “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania.”
Cox toyed with changing the character's identity to transsexual, as the term 'transvestite' is “something that’s sort of a pejorative now,” she says. "But you don’t change the words to an iconic song."
Discussion of the terms matters, and Lambert is comforted by how far we've come. "If you look at the past five years, our country’s been through a really great education on what trans is," he says. "People’s eyes are opened and people have been educated, and it’s wonderful."
Still, Cox is aware that some have taken issue with her casting.
“A lot of people have issues with a trans woman playing a character who identifies as a transvestite, but I doubt that any of the white cisgender men who played Dr. Frank-N-Furter over the past 40 years, all of them probably do not identify as a transvestite either," she says. "But they’re actors who are playing a part. And hopefully people will be able to distinguish between Laverne Cox and the characters I play."
Lambert calls reworking the gender of Rocky Horror's central character "a really interesting twist. The movie is such a cult classic that you run this tightrope between paying respect to the original and also coming up with something new. And casting Laverne was a brilliant choice in creating a new context for the character, and one that feels socially responsible."
It's a project that completes a career full circle for Cox, who will soon make history as the first trans woman to become as a series regular on network television in CBS' upcoming legal drama Doubt, with Katherine Heigl.
Watching Rocky Horror for the first time "gave me permission to not just dream it, but to be it," she says. On set, "I couldn’t believe it every single day I got to get up and go and record the soundtrack and rehearse and shoot this movie. But I got to do it, and everyone should be able to live their dreams."