Give the Rage of the Stage Players high marks for ambition, especially in dazzling visuals, when mounting a production like The Rocky Horror Show. But as some long-ago critic said, nobody ever left the theater whistling the scenery.
I cannot avoid the pun: This Rocky is rocky. The set design, by Robert Henry, makes a drop-dead (ouch) gorgeous background for the "Transylvanian" monsters/chorus in their best '50s-era black and white. (The program credits the costumes to Valerie Porter, Wilma Porter, Carrie L. Shoberg and director James Michael Shoberg.) But as so often happens with the Rage, the show itself drags. Director Shoberg seems to lavish so much attention on production values that he neglects the needs of comic pacing.
As for the musical side of this 1973 British musical comedy (which begat the cult-classic film), results are also mixed. The five-piece band, restyled as Eddie and the Mind Fucks, is mostly solid, and there are some good voices in the cast. But what are they singing? Although the principals are miked (sometimes ostentatiously so), their vocals are distorted, losing nearly all the lyrics. It's like providing the punch lines from memory only.
If there's anyone out there who doesn't know the plot -- don't worry, it's not supposed to make sense. The show, by Richard O'Brien, mixes huge dollops of both classic and low-budget horror films with mounds of silly exploitative "teen" flicks, especially the ones that kept most of the more attractive cast members in skimpy costumes (Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, anyone?).
Some of Mr. Shoberg's Rocky reconceptualizations succeed, such as the chorus of monsters and the brilliantly bifurcated and executed Riff and Raff (Gentry Thurman and Peter Anthony Vetrini, both wonderfully slimy). While updating Rocky himself (the highly buffed Sean Michael Gallagher) to a Borg look works, updating the squarely wholesome Brad and Janet (Dave Gallagher and Erica Jureckson) doesn't; their über-trendiness knocks holes into their later transformation.
There's still some fun here: Ms. Shoberg's energetic-cheerleader portrayal of sidekick Columbia; Joanna Lowe's unwholesome-housewife Magenta; and those Transylvanians (Deena Hower, James Jamison, Leah Klocko, Everett Lowe, Joseph A. Roots and Robye Wilson). The key character of mad scientist/hermaphrodite Dr. Frank-N-Furter (William Newman), alas, is so much like this show itself, in that it looks a lot better than it actually comes off.
The Rocky Horror Show continues through Sept. 20. The Brewhouse, 2100 Mary St., South Side. 412-851-0922 or www.myspace.com/rageofthestage