Journo: Frank-n-Furter in the Footlights

Michael Rennie was ill the day the Earth stood still and Flash Gordon was there in silver underwear and Claude Raines was busy being the invisible man and in the midst of it all, yours truly was parked in a pew in the Muse Theatre taking it all in on day two of my visit to the Church turned community theatre located on the Northside of town.

And from my pew with notepad in hand, I watched as the show slowly came together as artistic director Don Elwood found himself going up and down a ladder stapling up a curtain while his wife and fellow artistic director Vicki sat a pew behind me as we waited for the actors to emerge from the dressing rooms since this American Top Model day where I've come to snap photos.

So while corsets were donned, glittering heels were being fastened and the appropriate transvestite makeup applied, I chatted with production assistant John Dominic Sullivan as he sat at the edge of the stage.

Like so many people that work around the Muse Theatre, show biz pipes through his family's blood as he has a sister named Bernadette who makes a living in Los Angeles and works successfully as a voiceover artist.

Sullivan himself has spent years traveling for his craft.

"I've been everywhere from Fairbanks, Alaska, to New York, New York," he says with a bit of a chuckle.

Putting on a musical, he says with a sigh, is a lot more intensive work that people might think.

"You've got to work through all the dramatics of a play and then you have to add all the singing and dancing of a musical on top of that," he says.

For Sullivan, being a production assistant is a bit of hodge-podge of a job as he works on the playbills, is a contact among the creatives, and basically plays cheerleader/mother/father/and therapist to anybody who needs it.

With a cast of 17, Sullivan admits it can get quite hectic.

"It's challenging but worth the challenge."

In the midst of our conversation I hear the tiny pitter patter of Mary Leigh Snider's heels as she comes onto the stage in full Columbia gear. A little pixie of an actress, Mary Leigh, the daughter of a director father and a costumer mother, shows off the top-hatted ensemble with a twirl before getting small adjustments by a costume designer.

"I love it," Mary Leigh gushes. "Sort of reminds of me of Cabaret. The shorts are just the perfect length."

"True," I remark. "Any shorter we'd have a whole different kind of show where you'd be taking tips home at night."

"There you go Don," Mary Leigh says, "the Muse Theatre Gentlemen's Club."

"It reminds me of a time I did a production of Chicago," says Vicki Elwood, "and here I am in this big boxy outfit as Mama Morton and these Fosse girls have these amazing legs up to here and I just go to myself, 'Damn, I'm really gonna have to do some serious acting for people to even notice me."

After a few minutes, Colin Thelen comes sauntering out onto the stage in full Frank-n-Furter regalia. The once very blond now very raven-haired Thelen struts about the stage in heels and tests out cracking the whip in hand.

"I don't know if you want to use that or the crop," Don says from his seat out in the pews, proving again this is not your grandma's community theater production.

Mary Leigh and Colin lounge in the first two rows of pews as stage manager and certifiable life saver Krista Kuhn snaps photo of the dynamic duo all over the stage and the theater.

As the camera clicks, Vicki and I get into further discussion about why she picks the pieces that she does for the Muse Theatre.

Vicki says that she likes not just the edgy stuff but edgy stuff that deals with outsiders, something she believes everyone, especially theatre people can relate to.

"You do feel sometimes on the edge in theare," she says. "The artist is always in the underground."

She believes her choices of things like Batboy: The Musical and Trailer Park Musical speak to that.

"The suffering from being an outsider creates interesting character in those things," she says.

She pauses for a moment and looks out at the stage, a proud look over her face.

"You know," she confides, "when we did the Trailer Park show, the set was so nice and homey that I didn't want to tear it down. And now we've got this great set and I'm going to not want to tear it down either."

She laughs and goes off to talk to some members of the crew because in theatre, there is little time to stand still because there is always another question to be answered, another show to be produced, and another curtain to be called.
For more on Rocky Horror Picture at the Muse Theatre check out this week's Second Supper at http://www.secondsupper.com/
Or go over to the Muse Theatre's website for dates of shows and where to purchase tickets: http://www.musetheatre.com/

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