You might say that if it weren’t for Oak Bay’s Canadian College of Performing Arts, locals might not be able to enjoy this Halloween’s stage production of that camp-theatre favourite, the Rocky Horror Show.
Mounted for the second year by Rebel Knock Out Productions, “three of the four founding members of RKO attended the Canadian College of Performing Arts, which is right in Oak Bay, so we all feel like Oak Bay is an old home,” says actress Candace Woodland, a founding member of RKO and the company’s marketing director.
Fellow CCPA grads Sarah Anne Murphy and Kelly Hudson are also co-founders, along with Griffin Lea, who plays Dr. Frank N’ Furter.
The work ethic and diverse skills taught at CCPA are evident in RKO’s work. In addition to Woodland’s multiple hats, including playing the Time Warp-dancing Columbia, Murphy, who plays Janet Weiss, is also choreographer, while Hudson, who plays Riff Raff, is production manager.
Other CCPA alumni in the cast include Jana Morrison, as Magenta, R.J. Peters, as Brad Majors, and John Han, who plays a Phantom and is the music director.
“You could definitely say that RKO wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the wonderful connections we all made at the CCPA, tucked right into Oak Bay,” says Woodland, who had performed in Kaleidoscope’s Rocky Horror production with Lea several years ago.
“I think to me it’s different from classic musical theatre but it’s also the most inclusive show I’ve performed in with the relationship between the actors and the audience,” Woodland says, pointing to the audience interaction with call-outs and props that has developed around Rocky Horror.
“Last year the energy and mood of the audience really directed the kind of show we put on,” she says.
The 183-seat Metro Theatre also plays a role. “When I’m doing my tap solo, I’m about 10 feet from the front row.”
A satirical play on the horror and science fiction “B-movies” of the mid-20th century, the story follows straight-laced sweethearts Brad Majors and Janet Weiss who find themselves stranded in the woods during a suspicious thunderstorm.
With no choice but to ask for help at the terrifying Frankenstein Place, inside, they find that a deliciously charming yet utterly unpredictable transvestite throwing a party for his unusual friends … and Brad and Janet are the guests of honour.
The story was also brought to the big screen by actors Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick in the 1975 cult classic, the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
“All of us took inspiration from the movie (in addition to the play) because in this case the movie is so iconic,” Woodland says.
RKO came together last year specifically to mount the production. Greeted by sold-out crowds, the crew decided to return this year with an all-star cast of 15 local actors and an expanded run at the Metro Theatre, opening next week under the direction of Atomic Vaudeville’s Britt Small.
“Britt is really good and pushing us to what we can do with the characters,” Woodland says, noting that in her case, playing Columbia – “a role I never thought I could play” – has been a departure from many of the classic or dramatic roles she had tackled previously.
“So Columbia is very close to my heart … You get to explore this side of yourself you wouldn’t ever get to show in real life.”
The gritty reboot of this timeless classic features “rip-roaring rock-n’ roll numbers like Sweet Transvestite and Time Warp performed by a live five-piece band sure to have audience members singing and dancing in their seats, along with Rocky Horror cult culture-inspired audience prop kits, and “thrillingly sexy performances in Dr. Frank N’ Furter’s weird and wonderful world of uninhibited thinking.”