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The gang’s all here as Jobsite launches ‘Rocky Horror’

Bill DeYoung

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In the 25 years he’s been at the helm of Jobsite Theater, David M. Jenkins says, he’s never seen a production sell as quickly as The Rocky Horror Show, which runs July 10-Aug. 4 in the Jaeb Theatre.

Good thing, too. Like every other arts company in Florida, Jobsite took a major hit when the governor made the decision in June to line-item veto any and all arts subsidies for 2024-25.

“We needed a win right now,” Jenkins admits. “This season has been overall really down; nothing has done as well as we’d hoped. We had a hole in the budget already, and this knocked another $32,000 out of the coffers for next year.”

In the five decades since it debuted on a London stage, Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show has become an immovable fixture on the American musical theater landscape.

Clay Christopger is Jobsite’s Dr. Frank-N-Furter.

The campy show’s bizarre blend of 1950s science fiction, classic horror and decidedly post ‘50s sexual shenanigans, all set to high-octane rock ‘n’ roll music, made it a standout, straight out of the gate.

The legend was crystallized by the 1975 film version, which added the word Picture to the title. While it was never a financial success in its original run, the movie became a cult favorite, maybe even the biggest in history.

To this day, the film is specially screened with “shadow casts,” in front of and below the screen, singing and dancing as the songs play on, acting out the characters’ dialogue and involving the audience in sly and silly ways.

“I largely credit Rocky Horror with why I’m even doing theater,” says Jenkins, who grew up in Jacksonville. “When I was 14, I started going to The Rocky Horror Picture Show at a theater a block from my house. I really got into it, and within a couple of weeks I was actually part of the shadow cast. Within a year, I was actually helping run the shadow cast.

“We got kicked out of multiple theaters, as is wont to happen with Rocky casts, and we landed in a space that was actually ours. We built a real company, we built props and we built costumes. So it was kind of like my test run.

“And I’ve wanted to do this since we started Jobsite. But in the very beginning, we had a lack of resources and I just knew we couldn’t do it. Do it well, anyway.”

The show was so popular that some company or other, on either side of Tampa Bay, always seemed to be producing it. So Jenkins and Jobsite had to find some buffer room and wait for their opportunity.

This season, the opportunity came.

Jenkins believes the outrageousness of cross-dressing Dr. Frank-N-Furter, the creepy Riff Raff, Magenta and Columbia, and straight-arrows Brad and Janet have not “lost a lick of relevancy. If anything, it’s even more relevant. People get so head-up about some of the topics, and some of the things that are going on in a musical that’s 52 years old, I think that’s relevant. We still can’t be ourselves. We still don’t live in a world where people don’t treat those that are a little bit different from them as alien.”

Heather Krueger and Spencer Meyers are Magenta and Riff Raff.

O’Brien made Brad and Janet the poster children for 20th century culture shock, Jenkins adds. “He took a 1950s world view and shoved this kicking and screaming 1970s vibe into it. That’s the central thing that’s going on. There’s a lot of stuff, musically, that’s 1950s America. And then you get this 1970s hot, lick, thump, disco, space aliens, androgynous, ambiguous … all of those things that metaphorically were happening in the world in the 1970s.”

Again, relevancy. “Look all the people today clutching their pearls about a colored flag. Or about indoctrination. I would argue that this really hasn’t changed.”

No one in the 14-member Jobsite cast was even alive when The Rocky Horror Show breathed its first back in the U.K. (the jury’s still out on the five onstage rock musicians).

Its ubiquitousness, however, is not tied to its age. “Almost everybody in this cast has a Rocky Horror entry story,” Jenkins explains. “It might be that their parents, on their 12th birthday, gave them a Rocky Horror-themed birthday party. It might be they worked with a shadow cast. Or they still do.

“We’ve got people who, maybe their first introduction was the episode of Glee that was a Rocky Horror episode.

“And of course, I know people for whom the movie is the be-all, end-all. It has to be just like the movie. And we’re not looking to do that at all.”

Jobsite is the resident theater company of the David A. Straz Performing Arts Center, Tampa. Tickets and information at the website.

 

 

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