'Rocky Horror Show Live' goes to 11

​During the laboratory scene of the new Rocky Horror Show Live at the Lab Theater, where transsexual Dr. Frank-N-Furter is ready to reveal his perfect blond bombshell Rocky, a cornucopia of strange science equipment is wheeled onto the stage. This includes a giant Plexiglas tube, which apparently will be used to unveil our doctor-created man.

My first thought at seeing this tube? Spinal Tap. Yep, it looked like something Derek Smalls would get stuck in while "Rock 'n' Roll Creation" plays on. And that's a perfect description of Cardinal Theatricals new production. No, not getting stuck in the pod, but the other bit everyone remembers from This is Spinal Tap.

This production goes to 11.

The Rocky Horror Show isn't great art, but it's still great fun. The music is bouncy, mixing '50s-inspired tunes with a heavy helping of early '70s weird. In a world of RuPaul's Drag Race, the transgressive elements have lost most of their shock, but watching seemingly straitlaced folks cavorting in sexy ladies' underwear is always a jolly time.

Leading the cast, in terms of recognition at least, is Don Shelby, who trades his WCCO news desk for the Narrator's perch. Shelby does a fine job in a role that doesn't require that much acting, though even he gets into it, occasionally taking the stage for the musical numbers and making quite a reveal at the show's end.


Andre Shoals puts his long years of experience as a drag artist and dancer to great effect as Dr. Frank-N-Furter. His outsized performance makes the mad doctor a bit sympathetic, with his constant need of not just pleasure, but acceptance. Or maybe I'm thinking too much. Anyway, Shoals big voice and ease on his high, high heels makes for an arresting central performance.

The secret stars here are Randy Schmeling as Riff Raff and Molly Callinan as Magenta. The two -- both veterans of past productions of the show -- lead the play from high point to high point.

Turning up the volume (even the ballads are performed "loud") doesn't change that there's a lot of fluff in a show that runs less than two hours, with great stretches between "Sweet Transvestite" and the floor show at the end that just come, go, and are quickly forgotten. 

Still, the production is big, ballsy (literally at the end, as the biggest freaking mirror ball I've ever seen descends from the rafters), and loaded with fun. There's even the signature heckling, some of it working (a foul reference to Fay Wray will haunt dreams) and some of it, not so well.

The Rocky Horror Show Live runs, naturally, through Halloween at the Lab Theater in downtown Miinneapolis.