In Part Two of our Spooky Musicals series, we take a look back at the freakishly funny and quirky musical The Rocky Horror Show! In honor of next week’s airing of FOX’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again!, we wanted to give our readers a bit of history as to how the show became the cult classic it is today.
For those of you who may not have seen the show, the musical is a humorous tribute to the science fiction and horror B movies ofs the late 1940s thru the early 1970s. It follows the story of newlyweds Brad and Janet getting caught in a storm and coming to the home of a mad transvestite, Dr. Frank N Furter. Frank is getting ready to unveil his new creation – a Frankenstein-style monster in the form of an artificially made, fully grown, muscle man named Rocky Horror.
The show’s book, music, and lyrics were all written by Richard O’Brien in the early 70s. O’Brien was an out of work actor in London at the time and initially started writing the project as a means of keeping himself busy. He chose to combine his passion for the unintentionally comedic nature of B horror movies with his love for 50’s rock and roll music. After reading an early, unfinished draft, Australian director Jim Sharman asked to direct the piece at the Upstairs at the Royal Court Theatre. The intimate studio space had been frequently used as a place for emerging writers to develop new work. The show premiered on June 19, 1973 and despite being staged in a tiny 63 seat theatre, the show garnered significant attention. In fact, when record producer Jonathan King saw a performance, he immediately arranged for the cast to make the original cast recording.
In August 1973, the show transferred to the 230 seat Chelsea Classic Cinema and then to the 500 seat King’s Road Theatre in November 1973. The musical, a commercial and critical success, received the 1973 Evening Standard Award for Best Musical.
The Rocky Horror Show did not premiere in the United States in March 1974. The show opened at the Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles with an all new cast except original UK stars Tim Curry and Richard O’Brien. The run sold out and caught the attention of 20th Century Fox executive Gordon Stulberg who produced the 1975 film version (entitled “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”).
With the film opening in Fall 1975, producer Lou Adler decided to mount the show on Broadway in the spring of 1975 in time for the film release. The original production opened on March 10, 1975 at the Belasco Theatre but only ran for a total of 45 performances. The short run is surprising especially when compared to the London production which ran for nearly 2,960 performances before closing in 1980.
The Rocky Horror Show would not return to Broadway until October 19, 2000. The production, staged in the round at Circle in the Square Theatre, proved to be much more successful. The revival earned 4 Tony Award nominations including Best Revival of a Musical. The show closed in January 2002 after 437 performances. It is speculated that the show closed prematurely due to financial losses during the time post-9/11.
On October 20, a new television version of The Rocky Horror Show will air on FOX. Are you tuning in? We sure are!