The Rocky Horror Show (2002)

Book, Music, and lyrics by
Richard O’Brien
Oct. 10-Nov. 2, 2002
ArtLoft Theatre, St. Louis

Magenta/Usherette – Alice Kinsella
Janet Weiss – April Lindsey
Brad Majors – Todd Schaefer
Narrator – Christopher “Zany” Clark
Riff Raff – Alan McCormick
Columbia – Kimi Short
Frank N. Furter – Bryan Shyne
Rocky Horror – Jeffrey Pruett
Eddie/Dr. Scott – Brian Claussen

Director – Scott Miller
Choreographer – Jeffrey Pruett
Lighting Designer – Mark Schilling
Costume Designer – Betsy Krausnick
Set Designer – Todd Schaefer
Make-Up Designers – Luda Chernyak, Todd Schaefer
Props Master – Alison Helmer
Box Office Manager – Steve Dohrmann
Graphic Designer – Kris Wright
Photographer – Robert Stevens

Piano – Kad Day
Guitar – Dale Hampton
Bass – Dave Hall
Percussion – Adam J. Kopff

Rocky reminds us vividly of the emotional power actors can exert when they’re in the same room as their audience, even if they’re kidding around.” – Judith Newmark, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“When it comes to challenging St. Louis theater audiences, to stretching them, exposing them to new stimuli, hardly anyone is in a class with Scott Miller. . . Rocky Horror will bring much-needed light and laughter to downtown.” – Joe Pollack, KWMU-FM

“Scott Miller directs the New Line production with a grand sense of theater that showcases the campy wit of the musical while still maintaining a necessary discipline to the process.” – Mark Bretz, Laude News

Oh God. Miller’s gonna deconstruct Rocky Horror. I could hear all the New Liners’ thoughts when we announced the show. I even wondered myself if I could write a chapter about Rocky, as I do about all our other shows. Did Rocky have anything in it to write about? And I asked myself – as I expected others would ask me – does it have to be more than just good old-fashioned sex, drugs, and rock and roll? It’s fun, campy, crazy; why ask it to be more than that?

The answer became clear as soon as we started work: Because it is.

To my great surprise, I found that Rocky Horror is a very smart, insightful piece of social satire about a very strange, very interesting time in America – the Sexual Revolution. And it holds lessons for us still today about how America over-reacts to nearly everything that comes down the road, and how much happier we’d all be if we’d just stop doing that.

Rocky uses as its vocabulary a collection of pop culture icons – Charles Atlas and muscle magazines, Frederick’s of Hollywood, old sci-fi movies with scantily clad women, horror movies with barely sublimated sexual fantasies, punk and glam rock with their blurring of gender lines – that represent the history of America hiding sex behind other things, of pretending to be pure and sexless while it’s just as sex obsessed as the rest of the world.

At its core, Rocky Horror is about how America over-reacted to the Sexual Revolution – the Pill, free love, communes, gay rights, wife swapping, sex clubs, and all the other surprises of the sixties and seventies.

Rocky's heroes Brad and Janet embody pre-Pill, pre-Sex Education, American innocence. Their journey dramatizes the fake purity and sex-only-through-metaphor of America in the 1950s, as it met the sexual openness of the 1960s and 70s, resulting partly in renewed repression and fear (Brad) and partly in new sexual freedom and experimentation (Janet). Brad reacts to Frank’s open sexuality the way half of America reacted to the Sexual Revolution, recoiling in fear, retreating into 1950s Puritanism; and Janet reacts as the other half of America reacted, diving head first into the excesses of free love, exploring fearlessly the limits of human sexuality.

Yes, Rocky Horror is more than sex, drugs, and rock and roll. The original stage version was named Best Musical of 1973 in London's Evening Standard annual poll of drama critics, and ran for 2,960 performances. Critic Irving Waddle wrote, “This is theatre made out of the rawest and crudest ingredients, and forming a charge strong enough to obliterate anything standing in its tracks.” Michael Billington wrote in The Guardian, “This show won me over entirely. It achieves the rare feat of being witty and erotic at the same time.” Naseem Khan wrote in The Evening Standard, “O’Brien has created a satirical and affectionate send-up that, unlike Rocky, remains well within control.” The New Statesman wrote, “The intention of course is to celebrate such freaks of pop culture as Hammer films, Alice Cooper, and the sci-fi of Michael Moorcook; and the result has tremendous invention, energy, and glee, right up to the final paean to bisexuality.” The show has since been translated into over a dozen languages and played in more than twenty countries. Maybe it’s not just about America…

Chicago (2002)

Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse
Based on the play Chicago
by Maurine Dallas Watkins
June 6-29, 2002
ArtLoft Theatre, St. Louis

Velma Kelly – Stephanie Brown
Roxie Hart – Alice Kinsella
Amos Hart – Terry Meddows
Mama Morton – Lavonne Byers
Billy Flynn – Michael Brightman
Mary Sunshine – Mo Monahan
Emcee – Jeffrey Pruett
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Ensemble – David Blake, Mara Bollini, Christine Brent, Jeremy Brown, Lisa Doerge, Wayne Easter, Frank Gutierrez Jr., Jodi Hertz, Katie Nestor, Jeffrey Pruett

Director – Scott Miller
Choreographer – JT Ricroft
Assistant Director – Matt Pickar
Dance Captain – Jeffrey Pruett
Lighting Designer – Paul Summers
Costume Designer – Evonne Baum
Set Designer – Justin Barisonek
Hair Design – Lois Bryant
Props Master – Kimi Short
Box Office Manager – Steve Dohrmann
Graphic Designer – Kris Wright
Photographer – Robert Stevens

Piano – Brad Hofeditz
Reeds – Marc Strathman
Trumpet – Chris Miller
Trombone/Banjo – Jim Shiels
Bass – Pete Wahlers
Percussion – Adam J. Kopff

“Smart, steamy and a heck of a lot of fun, marking one of New Line’s strongest efforts” -- St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Extremely entertaining . . . Because the New Line production is stripped down to its essence, it reveals something that neither of the flashier, more expensive New York productions embodied: likeability. Here, a winning cast captivates (rather than razzle-dazzles) us throughout the evening. . . All in all, this is the most fully realized New Line production I’ve yet seen. . . This is the sort of opportunity that musical theater lovers pray for, and then travel great distances to indulge in.” – Dennis Brown, Riverfront Times
Chicago is highly enjoyable, with fine musicians and enough talent on the stage to keep things rolling from start to finish.” – Joe Pollack, KWMU-FM

“If you want to see another New Line hit packed with great music, dancing, costumes, and actors, don’t miss Chicago.” – Nicole Trueman, KDHX-FM

“A rousing production . . . a capable cast is given license to gleefully cavort to the infectious, jazzy tone of the show, and New Line’s performers are up to the challenge.. . From the rollicking opening number of “All That Jazz,” featuring Brown strutting stylishly before the ensemble, to the closing “Hot Honey Rag” of Brown and Kinsella, Chicago is a high-camp treat of the first order.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News

“A showy, brightly produced musical filled with extremely talented actors, singers and dancers, who give it their all.” – Cathy Cohn, The Vital Voice

Chicago is set in 1924.And in 2002. It’s about real life murderers Beulah May Annan and Belva Gaertner, and also about O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake, Lorena Bobbitt, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Menendez brothers, Susan Smith, and Andrea Yates.

Chicago the musical wouldn’t exist without an audience. Vaudeville wouldn’t have either. And neither would the gavel-to-gavel coverage of the O.J. trial, or the endless cable news stories about Chandra Levy, or the gruesome details of Andrea Yates drowning her five children, told over and over again on TV in excruciating detail. We ask for it, Chicago suggests. We are to blame. How else can we explain why we sat transfixed watching those planes crash into the World Trade Center over and over and over, or repeatedly watched screaming kids running out of Columbine High School?

Is it a primordial bloodlust that just hasn’t been civilized out of us yet? Is it a violent streak burned into our species millions of years ago that we should just accept as innately human? Or is it something to fight, to overcome, to rise above?

As Arab Americans are now being routinely beaten up and threatened on American streets, we have to ask if September 11th unleashed a new patriotism in America or if it unleashed our only barely contained bloodlust, always simmering just under the surface, ready to boil over. Is Bush’s “War on Terror” really about making America safe again, or is it about finding the bastards who did that to us and tearing them limb from bloody limb? Maybe it’s about both.

Because Chicago is very much about our world in 2002 but takes place in 1924 – and is told entirely in the language of vaudeville acts – one of New Line’s greatest challenges has been in finding a contemporary physical and visual language that is equivalent to 1920s vaudeville. In other words, to make the point that this story lives both in 1924 and in 2002, we had to find a language that lives not just then, but in both times. We found ourselves asking what vaudeville would look like today if it had survived and had more successfully competed with movies and TV. Probably a lot like it did then, but morphed a bit – more sexual, more aggressive, more attention grabbing.

And thinking about all that raised another side issue. Vaudeville was one of America’s most popular cultural forms for almost sixty years (which is why it’s the perfect metaphor for Chicago's murder-as-entertainment), but then it suddenly died. And here we sit today, in the fifty-ninth year of the Rodgers & Hammerstein model, the basis for our modern American musicals. So we have to ask if the Rodgers & Hammerstein-style musical is going to survive. We’re already seeing rumblings of new musical theatre forms in many of the shows New Line has produced – Songs for a New World, Floyd Collins, A New Brain, Assassins, March of the Falsettos – and many of the shows on and off Broadway, like Urinetown, Bat Boy, The Last Five Years, and others. When we think about vaudeville, we sometimes forget it lasted that long and yet disappeared that fast. Could that happen to Carousel and Hello Dolly!, and Phantom of the Opera?

A New Brain (2002)

Music and lyrics by William Finn
Book by James Lapine & William Finn
Vocal Arrangements by
Jason Robert Brown
March 7-30, 2002
ArtLoft Theatre, St. Louis

Gordon Schwinn – Mike Heeter
Lisa, the Homeless Lady – Karen Page
Rhoda – Deborah Sharn
Waitress – Kimi Short
Mr. Bungee – Terry Meddows
Doctor – Ken Haller
Nancy, the thin nurse – Kimi Short
Richard, the nice nurse – Nicholas Kelly
Minster – Christopher Brenner
Roger – Todd Schaefer
Mother – Mo Monahan

Director – Scott Miller
Lighting Designer – Mark Schilling
Costume Designer – Betsy Krausnick
Set Designers – Scott Miller, Shawn Donahue
Props Master – Alison Helmer
Stage Manager – Jim Merlo
Light Board Operator – Chris “Zany” Clark
Box Office Manager – Steve Dohrmann
Graphic Designer – Kris Wright
Photographer – Robert Stevens

Piano – Scott Miller
Reeds – Marc Strathman
Bass – Dave Hall
Percussion – Adam J. Kopff

“A neurotic, quirky and profoundly life-affirming show” – St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“A delightful, albeit dark comedy. Scott Miller’s inspired direction of this sung-through musical keeps the show galloping at a brisk pace with restful interludes. . . Todd Schaefer, who plays the gay lover of our angst-ridden lead, has an outstanding voice. . . Lovely of voice, Mo Monahan brings enough compassion to the role to mitigate Mother’s overbearing trait. . . Terry Meddow’s energetic portrayal of the bug-eyed Bungee suggests that, despite appearances, it isn’t easy being green. Karen Page gives a stellar performance as the Homeless Lady who shuffles in and out of Schwinn’s consciousness. . . The remaining cast and 4-piece band do an exceptional job with a score, the complexity of which demands consummate skill and precision. . . Oscar Hammerstein gave us ‘a bright golden haze on the meadow.’ William Finn recreated the bright golden haze of the MRI scanner which swallowed him up during a diagnostic exam. Here’s one show you’re unlikely to find on any other stage in St. Louis.” - Sheila Schultz, KDHX-FM

“Scott Miller’s New Line Theatre is all about presentations that are daring, different or deliciously skewering the conventional. . . There’s enough to appreciate in Finn’s inspired whimsy, and New Line’s zestful interpretation by its capable cast under the judicious care of director Scott Miller, to make A New Brain a pleasing, if offbeat and quirky, selection.” - Mark Bretz, Ladue News

“[Composer William] Finn . . . is known for stretching the boundaries of the genre. . . Deborah Sharn is engaging and brings energy and depth to Rhoda, Schwinn’s agent . . . The always excellent Terry Meddows does a fine job as Gordon’s boss, the man-frog Mr. Bungee. The audience most enjoys the entertaining Nicholas Kelly as the self-effacing ‘nice nurse’ Richard. . . I’m glad Finn recovered, and he deserves credit for experimenting with the form.” -- Brian Hohlfeld, Riverfront Times

“Terry Meddows is bright as Mr. Bungee, who owns the TV show, and there is splendid work from Nicholas Kelly as Richard, the night nurse. Deborah Sharn is outstanding as Rhoda, [Gordon’s] good friend, and Karen Page and Ken Haller are often entertaining.” -- Joe Pollack, KWMU-FM

“Gordon’s boss (Terry Meddows), a sardonic sourpuss in a toad costume brings a welcome dash of vinegar. . . And Nicholas Kelly sparkles as the ‘nice nurse’.” -- Judy Newmark, Post-Dispatch

As many of your have already figured out. I'm bored with old-fashioned conventional, linear storytelling, where each scene follows logically and inevitably from the one before, We get enough of that on TV and in the movies, Do we really need that in the theatre, too? Is that really the only way, or even the most interesting way, to tell a story? Since TV and movies do naturalism better than theatre, shouldn't theatre focus on what it does best. namely, imagination and emotion?

A New Brain certainly rejects linear storytelling, This show literally puts us inside the mind of Gordon Schwinn, a theatre composer whose brain isn't working right. He has an arterial venous malforntation in his brain which bursts, causing his brain to malfunction in surprising and (for us) very funny ways. Easily two-thirds of the show happens inside Gordon's mind in the fonn of fantasies, dreams, hallucinations, and a coma. As we watch the show, we suffer through the same mind-bending disorientation as Gordon, sometimes confusing, sometimes wildly entertaining, sometimes disturbing, constantly moving in and out of reality. We go on his surrealistic journey with him.

We see how Gordon perceives the people in his life, what he thinks of himself and his career, how he feels about death. all of it. sometimes in explicit terms, sometimes in metaphoric tenns, sometimes in tenns so bizarre and neurotic and outrageous you have to just throw your hands up and laugh.

Most plays and movies are told from an outside, objective point of view. Some are told from the point of view of the central character, But I can't think of many that are told from the point of view of a central character whose brain isn't working right and whose perceptions of the world are hopelessly tangled. (The only one that comes to mind is the brilliant recent film Memento, which A New Brain resembles in some ways.)

Don't expect everything you see tonight to make sense. It won't But when the roller coaster ride is over, the pieces will all fit together, At the end of the show, when Gordon is finally able to write the "Spring: song he's been trying to write since the first scene, you'll see why this journey was one worth taking.

Almost everything that happens in the show actually happened to William Finn, who wrote A New Brain. Three days after winning a Tony Award for Falsettos, Finn collapsed and was rushed to the hospital where he was diagnosed with this life threatening brain disorder, Luckily, he came out of it as healthy and as crazy as ever, and once he was back home, he turned his adventure into a musical. But, as you might guess considering the subject matter, it's a musical unlike any you've seen before.

Especially since the terrorist attacks on September 11, the homeless lady's admonition that "We live in perilous times" is more potent than ever, and the show's warning to live life to the fullest because there's no telling what tomorrow has in store is a lesson we need now more than ever. Maybe in this new world in which we now live, we all need a new brain – a new way of thinking about our lives – and hopefully this show can be our call to action.