Halloween wouldn’t be Halloween without the annual pilgrimage to see the Richard O’Briens Rocky Horror Show. While the movie is fun, the live stage play is funner. Shouting “asshole” or “slut” at a screen is one thing. Shouting it at live actors who are likely to respond is a whole other story. I chatted with comedian Devil Dan Derkson, who plays the Narrator in the Mainline Theatre’s annual production, about why the story has endured for so long, and what’s special about Mainline’s version.
Nancy Berman (NB): Why has the Rocky Horror Picture Show lasted since 1973?
Dan Derkson (DD): For one thing, it’s got the best music. Also, even though it started as a musical, it’s the film that made it last for so long. And the film is that great balance of absolutely phenomenal and absolutely horrible all at the same time. It has such incredible performances. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, when that craze started of talking back to the movie (nobody had ever done that before) it made the film the thing that people waited to do. Every week. I went every Friday when I was a teen.
NB: What does the Mainline Production take from the film and what does it change?
DD: The live show is so different. At Mainline we don’t allow people to throw anything because we have dancers and we don’t want to kill them. When you talk to us we talk back. I’m the narrator so I tend to get the most catcalls and comments. And I talk back.
All of the music is the same. We do a couple of songs that were in the original play but left out of the film, like Brad’s song Once in a While. The costumes are very similar. We’ve got a big change in our production that’s different from the film. But I can’t tell you what it is. We’re making an adjustment to one of the characters that’s a little more fascinating.
NB: A male or a female?
DD: Yes one of those. Not Brad or Janet though.
We also have a live band with backup singers and great choreography.
Something that’s in the live show but not in the film is that other than the main characters, there are just a few phantoms who play all the other characters.
NB: Will you be wearing pants? (Dan has a proclivity for pantlessness in his stand-up shows at the Wiggle Room).
NB: Why is the Rocky Horror associated with Halloween?
DD: Probably because of the dress-up/costume potential. The Rocky Horror is about sex and Nazis, and murder. It’s not about the loss of innocence, it’s about whether or not you want to keep your innocence. It’s about aliens who are fascinated with this planet where us humans are so uptight and repressed. They offer just a little idea and we give in wholeheartedly. Within 24 hours Brad and Janet go from not wanting to say “dammit” to saying “touch me touch me touch me.” It’s about the desire to not be innocent.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show plays at the Mainline Theatre. 3997 St. Laurent. October 22-25. Tickets $20 at the door or $18 in advance. Students/seniors $15.