Doing the ‘Rocky Horror’ again

It’s time to break out the stilettos and corsets and brush up on those time-warping skills, because that sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania has returned to Tampa.

The Rocky Horror Show, which inspired the 1975 cult classic movie, is being performed in the Jaeb Theater at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center this month.

Rocky Horror is famous for being one of the most performed shows ever, and the film has had a seemingly infinite theater run, with many fans never growing tired of it.

The play follows Brad Majors (Michael Indeglio) and Janet Weiss (Heather Krueger), two seemingly generic suburban adults, as their car breaks down on their way home from a wedding and the duo is forced to spend a night at Frank-n-Furter’s (Jesse Luttrell) mansion. They soon learn that they’re a long way from their plain, ordinary lives — and that’s even before they meet Frank-n-Furter’s creation, Rocky (Hayden Milanes), get seduced by the mad doctor and learn their hosts are keeping an otherwordly secret from them.

At first sight, the inside of Jaeb Theater looks more like an edgy fashion show than a theater. Gone are the usual cabaret tables. Instead, general admission seating curves around a catwalk in the middle of the room.

There’s also an 8-foot platform where a live band performs throughout the play, giving the production more of a rock ‘n’ roll feel. Phantoms dressed in sexy leather lingerie surround the catwalk to get the audience pumped up with a dance competition before the show begins.

Each production brings its own flavor to the show. All the actors of this production look as if they just stepped out of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video. These ghoulish ladies and men come in all shapes and sizes, but are all dressed in gothic makeup, alternative hairstyles, fishnets and either stilettos or combat boots. It’s like a gothic burlesque show.

In the beginning of the play a drag queen serves as narrator, introducing the audience to the world of Rocky Horror after a classic performance of the play’s opening score, “Science Fiction/Double Feature.” Before viewers know it, the wedding scene is over and a good 50 percent of the audience is up doing the “Time Warp” with the Transylvanians.

The production includes “audience participation” shows, which take place at 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Rocky Horror was one of the first audience participation movie, and the stage show is usually not much different. People dress up in costume, use various props and dance along with the characters.

While audience members cannot bring in their own props, a pre-approved prop bag is available in the lobby for $5, though the theater asks that the audience do not throw props at the actors as they “bruise easily.” Some of the props popularized over the years — including water pistols, rice, confetti and hot dogs — are not part of this goodie bag, but viewers can still take part in classic moves like putting the newspaper over their heads when Janet and Brad are walking in the rain.

Following the audience’s favorite dance number, it’s time for the reveal of Frank-n-Furter. Expecting Tim Curry’s classic film portrayal of the transsexual doctor, I was surprised to see him come out looking like a sparkling version of Dracula, keeping with the more gothic tone. Like the rest of the cast, he has an amazing voice and is easy on the eyes, even in his full drag lingerie.

The show goes on with amazing singing, lewd dance numbers and the same crazy debauchery Rocky Horror has brought to audiences for more than 30 years.

In some ways, it is even better than going to the midnight showing. The audience has the actors right in front of them, with the sexy Transylvanians dancing just 4 feet away. Meanwhile, fellow audience members yell out lines, knowing every word by heart. It’s the true Rocky Horror experience.

It’s a show of raunchy lyrics. It’s a play that, well, flouts some conventional moral codes. It’s a cult classic that people just love to see over and over, and the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center does it justice.

The Rocky Horror Show runs through Nov. 1 with shows at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays and 7:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The 11 p.m. shows invite audience participation, and tickets cost $31.50. One hour before showtime, costumed audience members will be eligible for a lottery for $15.50 tickets that allow them to be seated onstage. For more information, call 813-229-7827.