Rust Belt puts twist on Rocky Horror with ‘Rockin’ Horribles’


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If You go

What: “The Rockin’ Horribles Audience Participation Show”

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and also March 23, 24, 30 and 31

Where: Rust Belt Theater Company, at Calvin Center, 755 Mahoning Ave., Youngstown

Tickets: $15 ($10 for students and seniors); call 330-507-2358

Also: Audience participation bags will be available at the door for a small fee

By GUY D’ASTOLFO

dastolfo@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

In its latest original show, Rust Belt Theater Company will spoof a musical that at one time seemed spoof-proof.

“The Rockin’ Horribles Audience Participation Show” – which premieres Friday and runs for three weekends – will send up “The Rocky Horror Show” in Rust Belt fashion.

Robert Dennick Joki is the director. He also wrote the script and co-wrote the music with Josh Taylor.

“The plot and the characters may sound somewhat familiar, but I assure you it is only a coincidence,” said Joki in a press release that mysteriously lays the groundwork.

After crashing their car in a neighborhood on the wrong side of the tracks, a young and “painfully basic” couple, Chad and Becky, find themselves seeking refuge in the estate of an eccentric recluse who has an unusual fetish.

With the assistance of the recluse’s creepy cohorts – Jib Jab, Fuchsia and Columbiana – the couple tests the boundaries of their relationship.

The musical revels in dark comedy, audience participation and rockin’ songs. It has adult language and situations.

The cast includes Wesley Miller, Jude Mikulich, Angelisa Beltran, Kage Coven, Celena Coven, Lisa Torrence, Geri Dewitt, Cassie Wirtz, Madi Pomeroy, Bernadette Lim, Rachel Clifford, America McNeil, Janelle Yohman, Ryan Musgrove and Mary James.

Joki discussed his latest project in this exchange:

Q. Does “Rockin’ Horribles” spoof “Rocky Horror” in the same way that another of your works, “Living Dead, the Musical,” spoofs “Night of the Living Dead”? In other words, does it lovingly mock the source material?

A. The script lovingly lampoons “The Rocky Horror Show.” It’s a send-up of fetish culture and musical comedy cliche. The original production (the stage production) is so bad that it’s good, and that’s a big part of the cult attraction. Also, “The Rocky Horror Show” is now 45 years old. What was considered risque in 1973 you can now see on network television any night of the week. When I see more conservative theaters producing “The Rocky Horror Show,” I kind of laugh to myself and think “is this the new ‘Oklahoma’?”

Q. Judging by some of the names (Jib Jab, Columbiana), is it safe to say that the Mahoning Valley is also spoofed in “Rockin’ Horribles”? And does the musical take place in Youngstown?

A. “The Rockin’ Horribles” takes place in a big old house with a red porch light in an abandoned neighborhood on the East Side of Youngstown. Like most of my shows, there is a lot of local humor in the script. I have a love-hate relationship with this area, so I can’t resist. I did, however, go to great lengths to make sure the show is funny no matter where you are from, or whether you’ve seen the original or not.

Q. You are building a repertoire of original musical spoofs. Do they have an advantage because audiences are already familiar with the plot, characters and tone of the original?

A. Parody writing is a challenge because you want to spoof the source material, but also show it the reverence it deserves.

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