If there’s one thing that you need to know about me it’s this: I love theatre. In fact, I love all forms of art, but I think that if I had to pick one it would be theatre. I suppose that I feel this way because out of all the art forms in the world, acting is the only one that I have some talent in. I’m by no means the world’s greatest actor, but I can put up a mean show when I want to. This is why I decided to go ahead and study drama for two years. During this time I got introduced to many different forms of theatre, one of them being musical theatre. Growing up in Harrismith, I never really got to see any musicals. Of course I saw movie musicals, but they’re nothing like the real thing. One of the other courses at my college was, of course, musical theatre. Before I came to Pretoria, I didn’t even know that you could study musical theatre on its own. I thought that everything just got thrown together in the drama course. So, when I finally got to see the musical theatre students perform, I was awestruck. I thought that they were incredibly talented and disciplined people. It’s just a pity that many of them were bitchy and didn’t believe in mixing with the common drama folk. But bitches have always been hatin’ on me since the day I was born, so I didn’t care much.
For a very brief period of my second year, my lecturer made me believe that I would be able to play a ‘character part’ in a musical. “Wentzel, you’ll be perfect for these weird characters, like Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Show.” Of course, hearing this made my little gay heart sing. If there’s one musical theatre role that I’ve always wanted to play, it’s Frank-N-Furter. So, when it came to our musical theatre exam for that year I sang ‘Mister Cellophane’ from Chicago (my other obsession) and of course, no other song than ‘Sweet Transvestite’. I absolutely loved singing and dancing around in knee-highs and a huge drag queen wig. It’s strange, but the weirder I look on stage, the more comfortable I feel.
So yes, of course I almost died when I heard that The Fugard Theatre’s acclaimed production of The Rocky Horror Show was coming to Johannesburg. I absolutely knew that I had to go and see it. It’s the show that everyone is talking about and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. After a few subtle and then not-so-subtle hints, I finally managed to convince my mom that we simply had to go and see the show. When she bought the tickets I was over the moon, because I already knew that it was going to be a night that I would never forget.
On the night when we went to go and see the show, I was almost bursting with antici…pation. Of course, I was also really nervous, because my mom was freaking out behind the steering wheel. But that’s how it normally goes, even when we drive to the shops in Harrismith. She just goes into full freak-out mode. Anyway, we survived the trip and arrived safely at Monte Casino. I had never been there before, so naturally I was walking around and gaping at the place. I was also walking very slowly, because my mother is really short and it’s difficult for her to keep up with my relatively long legs. We were very early, which is normal Lombard behavior, so we walked around and looked at everything. Finally, after what felt like a lifetime, it was time to go in.
At first it was all very intimidating. The usherettes – both male and female were prancing around and touching and flashing everyone. I didn’t mind, but I just had this irrational fear that one of them would come up to me. What was making me even more nervous was a lady that was selling stuff. Every few minutes she would loudly shout; “PARTICIPATION PACKS!” without warning. Each time I almost screamed. And yes, I did purchase a partici…pation pack.
Once we got into the theatre we realized that our seats weren’t booked next to each other. Obviously the lady in Checkers had some kind of vendetta against us and decided to put us far away from each other out of pure spitefulness. As I walked to my seat, two of the male usherettes grabbed me and I squealed like a little girl, not knowing what to do. I sat next to an old man who clearly came from the original Rocky Horror generation. He was just that old. I was still staring at everything and everyone around me when suddenly the Narrator (Adrian Galley) walked onto stage. The usherettes started walking towards the stage when one of them stopped in front of an audience member and shouted; “What?! You dirty man!” and proceeded to give the man, who was clearly very shy, a lap dance. At that moment I realized that I had to add giving an audience member a lap dance to my theatrical bucket list.
And then the show started! I was absolutely drawn in from the first moment. The girl who sang “Science Fiction/Double Feature” had an angelic voice. The partici…pation packs made the experience even more fun, especially when we were holding our newspapers over our heads as we were in the rain with Janet and Brad. The rain brought back heartwarming childhood memories of living in dilapidated houses with leaking roofs. I was absolutely swept away by the cast’s talent. Adrian Galley is a very charming and witty Narrator. Paul du Toit and Sharon Spiegel-Wagner make a very sweet couple as the wholesome Brad and Janet. After seeing him in film and television, I was really surprised at du Toit’s versatility and vocal abilities. But the party really started when Riff Raff (Andrew Laubscher) first appeared through the window of the castle. Within his tiny frame, Laubscher holds a very powerful voice and his version of the iconic hunchback character is every bit as brilliant as Richard O’Brien’s. He and Daneel van der Walt (Magenta) make a formidable team and they absolutely rocked the Time Warp. Shaun Smit’s (Rocky) body is enough to send anyone into a body dysmorphia. He gave a very sweet, innocent feeling to the character. The cutest character is undeniably Columbia (Dominique Maher) with her never-ending energy. When Maher first stepped onto stage I was certain that she would burn out, but she just kept going. She has more energy than an ecstasy addict.
But, of course, the great moment that completely blew me away was when Frank-N-Furter made his entrance with ‘Sweet Transvestite’. All at once I almost started crying like an idiot. Not only because Brendan van Rhyn was crushing my musical theatre dreams with every stomp of his six inch heels, but mostly because I have never seen someone so talented on stage before. You need to understand that I am probably the world’s biggest Tim Curry fan, but I don’t know if he was ever capable of doing what van Rhyn does. He is brilliant on every level – acting, dancing and singing (wow, his voice is amazing!). On top of this, he is phenomenal at ad-libbing, often cutting audience members that were shouting comments down to size with his razor-sharp tongue.
When the show was over, I was a cocktail of emotions. You see, I can’t just enjoy a show like other normal people. I analyze it deeply and appreciate everything that everyone does, because I know how difficult it can be. Many of the reviews never mention the ensemble cast, and even they were great. They moved like a unit, and trust me, that’s a really difficult thing to do.
When we got outside, everyone was crowding around Brendan, who was taking pictures with audience members. I had brought my camera with for this purpose, but I was suddenly hesitant, because I didn’t know what I would say to him. He had such a huge presence that it was overwhelming. On top of that I remembered all the nasty dance and musical theatre students from my college days and I thought that surely someone so talented would be like that too. Fortunately my mom insisted that I take a picture with him, so we moved into the crowd. Being the socially awkward person that I am, I waited until there was almost no one else left before I stepped forward. I didn’t know what to say, because I was really shy, so I just smiled and said “Hi!” in my girly squeal voice. I’m quite tall, so it’s not often that I meet someone taller than me, but Brendan is a lot taller and bigger than I am. He simply smiled and said “Hi.” in his deep voice. He posed with me as my mom stood on her tip-toes to get the camera high enough to take the picture. He was as warm and friendly as could be and I realized that with people like him around we still have hope in this world.
I didn’t write this blog entry to serve as a review at all. I don’t have nearly enough knowledge or experience to be a critic. I wrote it because I wanted to share with everyone one of the greatest, most inspiring nights of my life. I might not be able to sing and dance like the Rocky Horror cast, but I can still act, and this show inspired me to do it to the best of my ability.
No, I didn’t post the picture that I took with Brendan, because I look hideous in it. I intend on going again when the show returns to Joburg and then I’ll try and look better. If you know Brendan, please let him read this. Not that he’ll know who I am, but I just want him to know how big his impact is.
So, for my 23rd birthday on 27 December 2014, my mom decided to surprise me with tickets to the show. I got to go again and it was wonderful! I thought about writing a new blog post, but I’m scared that they would think I’m a stalker, so instead I decided to just update this one. I did, however, invite Brendan on Facebook, which I guess can also classify as stalkerish because I don’t really know him. Anyway, this time I didn’t look as bad on the pictures (except for the fact that my mom had no clue of how the cell phone’s camera works, and had to ask a complete stranger to take the picture).