Walkin’ in a ‘Rocky Horror’ winter wonderland

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imageAlmost everyone has seen some version of the “The Rocky Horror Show,” but Fabrefaction Theatre Company opens the gender-bender rock musical on Friday with a wintry spin.

That’s right. Richard O’Brien’s cult classic, which started out as a 1973 British stage play before becoming the 1975 film “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” is now a snow-filled romp at the North Pole.

Yet the principal folks remain the same. Lovebirds Brad and Janet, their car broken down, come to a castle for help and find an assortment of colorful characters, including the infamous cross-dressing Dr. Frank-N-Furter, busy making his boytoy Rocky.

Openly gay actor Jake Mullen stars as Frank-N-Furter (photo, center). Mullen is new to Atlanta, having just moved here after studying performing arts at SCAD in Savannah, and this is his first local stage appearance.

For him, bringing Frank-N-Furter to life is a joy.

“I really like the freedom and confidence and power he has, just the journey he goes through in the show,” Mullen says. “The others turn on him– power and conceit and vanity can bite you in the butt.”

It’s not the biggest role Mullen has taken, but it’s perhaps the most high profile.

“It is big shoes to fill, since Tim Curry made it iconic,” the actor says. “It is a challenge to combat those expectations, to make it as relatable as I can in this generation.”

Mullen especially likes Fabrefactin’s new take on the musical.

“The creative team have done a wonderful job of turning it into a winter wonderland in an interesting and fun way,” he says. “It should enhance the show. ‘Rocky Horror’ is done so frequently during the Halloween season – it’s bold for the theater to do this during the holiday season. I think this production will surprise some people. It’s also very dance involved – modern, hiphop and jazz.“

He laughs that in this revisionist take, his character is the Santa Claus of the show (as well as Ms. Claus) and that Riff Raff and Magenta are his elves.

Although he has seen the movie, he says that his favorite version is the stage production. He especially likes the music.

The music is very ‘70s rock and roll,” he says. “My vocal idol is Freddie Mercury of Queen. I thought doing this show this would be an opportunity to dig into that music.”

Although “Rocky Horror” has been around in some capacity for almost 40 years, Mullen thinks it still resonates.

“The theme of sexual freedom and loosening up inhibitions can ring in any decade,” he says. “It was more important when it came out, but any generation can relate. It is timeless and can move any audience.”

Another gay actor in the musical is Christopher Presley, who plays Rocky (photo, bottom) in his first professional acting gig in the ATL. He laughs that playing the part takes him out of his comfort zone.

“When I got the part, I was reminded that Rocky doesn’t wear that many clothes onstage,” Presley says. “I wear gold lame briefs, and I’ve never worn so little onstage.”

His version of Rocky, he says, is “a little Elvis – with half a brain.”

“The Rocky Horror Show” opens at Fabrefaction Theatre Company on Friday, Dec. 2 and runs through Dec. 23. Make opening night special with the David Night Out bar crawl bus tour that includes the show.

imageJim Farmer is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and public relations professional specializing in film promotions. He has been a theater and pop-culture critic for more than a dozen years and is the director of Atlanta’s annual Out On Film gay and lesbian film festival.

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