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Twisted musical onslaught

Carrie Click
Post Independent Arts Writer
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Scot Gerdes Colorado Mountain CollegeChris Walsh, as Eddie, and Cassidy Willey, as Columbia, wail on "Rocking out with Eddie."
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SPRING VALLEY, Colorado – It’s not often that you see a 6-foot 4-inch man walk by wearing a casual white T-shirt, baggy khaki shorts – and red, high-heeled pumps.

But let’s just say it. “The Rocky Horror Show” is no ordinary theatrical production.

A week ago Thursday night, Nyle Kenning, 23, who plays transvestite Dr. Frank-n-Furter in Colorado Mountain College’s “Rocky Horror” production, was getting used to wearing stilettos.



“My mom helped pick them out,” Kenning said, smiling, as he checked out his footwear. “She said I’d kill myself if I tried doing the show in anything higher than a two-inch heel.”

The “Rocky Horror” cast and crew were getting the kinks out, so to speak, with a run-through at Colorado Mountain College’s New Space Theatre at Spring Valley. The show opens tonight, and runs for a nine performances.



For director Tom Cochran, the show may be a bit of a stretch, but it’s more of a “big goof” than anything else.

“It’s a B horror movie meets 1960s free love,” Cochran said with a smile. “There’s sexuality in it, but it’s like the Rolling Stones. It’s fun.”

Written in 1973 by Richard O’Brien as a stage play, “The Rocky Horror Show” combines the campiness of science fiction horror films with tongue-in-cheek sexual debauchery, and lots of high-energy rock and roll. In 1975, it was made into what’s become a cult film classic, wildly popular with college-age audiences.

“Our dramaturg told me it’s the longest running film release in history,” said China Clancy, CMC Theatre managing director and the show’s choreographer. “Since it’s opened, it’s never not played.”

The plot is simple enough. A straight-laced couple’s car breaks down in the middle of the night, and the nearest house is a gothic-looking castle inhabited by a transvestite and a group of aliens and a artificial man named Rocky. That’s pretty much all you need to know.

If you’re familiar with “Rocky Horror,” you’re aware that you’re in for some fairly outrageous behavior. Besides men in high heels and some low-brow language, the audience participation aspect of the show might throw newbies for a loop.

(Not to give it away, but some of the props used by audience members include water, rice, newspaper, toilet paper, flashlights and more. Fortunately, prop kits are for sale at each performance.)

“It’s just like Shakespeare during Elizabethan times,” said Kenning, who graduated from the University of Denver with a bachelor’s degree in theater last June. “People used to walk around during performances. They really interacted with the actors.”

Even though “Rocky Horror” has received worldwide cult status, CMC Artistic Director Gary Ketzenbarger said to his knowledge the stage production has never been performed in the Roaring Fork Valley until now.

Glenwood Springs chorale director and music teacher Dory Light has been recruited as the show’s musical director, and Roaring Fork set designer Brad Moore is coordinating set building.

The show will be a novel theatrical adventure for the 18 actors who are in the show. Ten of those are CMC students – with the other eight coming from the community.

Paige Ulmer plays Janet and Alexander Rain plays Brad, the innocent couple gone wrong. Ulmer, 22, said she’s looking forward to interacting with the audience since so much of the musical feeds off crowd reaction.

“I’m preparing for what the audience gives me,” she said.

“I really wanted Brad,” said Rain, 23. “I’m like Brad, because when I saw the movie I was shocked by it. It was so out there and crazy. Now I say to people who will see it for the first time, go with an open mind and a sense of humor. You can’t take it seriously.”

Colby Schaller, 19, who’s studying theater at CMC, plays Riff Raff, the Igor-like servant that “Rocky Horror” creator Richard O’Brien played in the original stage production and movie.

“He’s a very fun character,” said Schaller. “He’s out there. He really is allowing me to get out of my own skin.”

According to Ketzenbarger, choosing to present “Rocky Horror” was part of creating diversity within the college’s theatrical season. And although this rock musical may not appeal to the some regular CMC Theatre audience members, it is sure to attract new clientele.

CMC Theatre’s China Clancy was the one who urged Ketzenbarger to add “Rocky Horror” to the roster.

“I first suggested it to Gary, and he came around,” said Clancy. “Now, you should hear the chattering in the [CMC] dorms. The whole student body is talking about this show. We’re hoping to have a new group of young people get a taste for theater with this production.”

The 2011-12 season – “Inherit the Wind,” “I Hate Hamlet,” “Dangerous Liaisons” and finally, “The Rocky Horror Show” – offered up a courtroom drama about evolution, a comedic look at Shakespeare, a drama about 18th century decadent French culture, and now, a campy, fun, raunchy rock musical.

“It’s tricky,” Ketzenbarger said. “We really balance out our offerings. It’s not just what I may want or China may want. It also has to do with the time of year, what other productions are running, what productions can actually fit on our stage, and how much we want to challenge the audience.

“What we’re doing is presenting the most appealing theater we can. And If the audience isn’t having fun with this one, we’re not doing our jobs.”


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