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Landry and Orphans to stage ‘Rocky Horror’

Landry and Orphans to stage ‘Rocky Horror’ at Oberon

Ryan Landry is excited to portray Dr. Frank N. Furter in “The Rocky Horror Show.’’ “I know that it’s gonna . . . kill,’’ Landry said after a recent rehearsal. michael von redlich

CAMBRIDGE - On a Saturday afternoon at Oberon, a mostly young cast sings and dances up a storm to music the stage manager plays on a boom box. They’re in rehearsal clothes, jeans and sweats and T-shirts. The director, James P. Byrne, sits on the bar, taking notes.

Then Ryan Landry appears as Dr. Frank N. Furter, wearing a long, shiny red cape and a devilish expression. Kayla Foster, playing the innocent Janet Weiss, gets an eyeful of him and screams. The stage manager cues up “Sweet Transvestite.’’

This could only be “The Rocky Horror Show,’’ the omnisexual alien monster musical that has taught millions of people to do the Time Warp since its stage and film incarnations debuted in the 1970s. Known onscreen as “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,’’ it’s the story of a nice young couple, Brad and Janet, who get stranded on a stormy night and seek help at a mad scientist’s castle.

Landry’s troupe, the Gold Dust Orphans, is producing “Rocky Horror’’ as a new late-night attraction at Oberon, the American Repertory Theater’s club-like second venue on the edge of Harvard Square. Shows on Fridays at 10:30 p.m. begin Oct. 14 (with an 8 p.m. show added on Oct. 21).


Landry has been talking with the ART about working at Oberon for a couple of years, and “Rocky Horror’’ was his idea. He sounds excited about the venue and cast, and the red cape is just the start of Scott Martino’s outré costumes. But on this afternoon, it feels like opening night is coming up fast.

“I know that it’s gonna [expletive] kill,’’ Landry says after rehearsal. “But to get it there is hard.’’

They’ve been practicing elsewhere and just moved into the venue, where they’ll be running down catwalks, jumping over railings, and go-go dancing on tables. The whole point of Oberon is immersive theater, and the Gold Dust Orphans are using every inch of the space, along with ray guns, a wheelchair, barbells, and a spaceship. There’s a lot to get right.


The cast skews young, and some of them have never seen “Rocky Horror.’’ “They only saw it on ‘Glee,’ ’’ Landry says, rolling his eyes. He promises in cheerfully graphic terms to put the sex back into the show.

He’s done “Rocky Horror’’ once before, in 1997, playing Frank N. Furter in a Boston Rock Opera production at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. The current staging is the rare Orphans production that’s not a Landry-penned original, but transvestites, horny mad scientists, and pansexual couplings hit his creative sweet spot. (Aliens? Bonus!)

“It’s like, my style. It’s not so much ‘Isn’t that a turn-on?’ as ‘Isn’t sex ridiculous!’ ’’ Landry says, cackling.

The show will take a Christmas break after Dec. 2, while Landry stars in the Orphans’ “Mrs. Grinchley’s Christmas Carol.’’ (“I can’t get that green makeup off in less than three days,’’ he says with a groan. “It’s everywhere! It’s in my ears!’’)

Both the ART and the Gold Dust Orphans hope “Rocky Horror’’ will return in the new year as a long-running complement to “The Donkey Show,’’ the sexy disco-Shakespeare mashup performed Saturday nights at Oberon.

“We think what [Landry] does is incredible, and . . . we thought that it was a really exciting space Ryan could come and play in,’’ says Ari Barbanell, director of special projects for the ART and associate producer at Oberon.


Landry is already familiar with the nightclub milieu, as he’s been putting on shows in Boston and Provincetown clubs for years, most recently in the basement of Machine, in the Fenway.

“Oberon’s experience is really immersive. It’s about being in the room together and sharing that experience. The action happens all around you. And Ryan’s work seemed ripe for that,’’ Barbanell says. “At Machine, he works in a more proscenium style, but it seemed ready to explode into something bigger.’’

Among the show’s challenges, Landry says, is working with a six-piece live band (plus cello on one number). “Getting musicians all in one place at one time is very difficult,’’ Landry says, but he’s solved that by hiring the Future Starlets, the band fronted by Gene Dante, who plays Janet’s fiance, Brad Majors.

“I’ve watched them and become friendly with them and I trust them,’’ Landry says. “It’s my style of music, glam rock. I love the music. I feel it’s a masterpiece.’’

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show’’ has become known for audiences that talk back to the screen and throw toast, hot dogs, and other items at relevant moments. Although this is more of a phenomenon at the movie, Landry says his experience with improv means he’s ready if the Oberon environment brings it out in fans.

“I can work around it. I know how to control them,’’ Landry says, briefly sounding like Frank N. Furter again.


Joel Brown can be reached at jbnbpt@gmail.com.