Backstage: Meet Randy Ronco and Lindsay Toland

On Halloween and the night after, the Performing Arts Collaborative will stage “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the Playwright. While most moviegoers only know about the 1975 film adaptation, PAC’s actors will present the original “Rocky Horror” stage musical. Don’t worry, though — all the trappings are here: Brad and Janet still wander into the mysterious castle, they still meet a party of Transylvanians, and, yes, the audience still participates.

In the PAC production, Randy Ronco takes on the role of Frank, the Transvestite prince of the planet Transsexual. Lindsay Toland plays Janet, the newlywed turned nympho whose pursuit of the man-slave Rocky drives the story. Over a table at the Playwright, both actors shared their thoughts on the difference between the stage and movie productions and the subtleties of playing sex-crazed aliens. They also taught us how to dance the “Time Warp.” Again.

Q: How would you describe the show in just one word?

L: Fun!

R: My word would be…

L: I have another word. I’m ready with another word.

R: Oh Jesus, she’s got another word. I would say energetic.

L: I would say raucous.

R: Yes, on Friday it was very raucous. Like, loud people screaming from the back rows. Everyone dancing and cheering. It was… it was a crazy night.

Q: How is it different from just seeing the movie?

L: Almost apples to oranges.

R: The movie is very static. So what happens with audience participation at the movie is it becomes very easy, because it’s very regimented. It’s like, you know, a Christmas story you’ve heard a hundred times.

The movie actually stemmed from a Broadway show, so it was done live first. When it took the leap to film, though, that’s when it really got its, you know…

L: Cult.

R: Yeah, cult following. With the campiness of the movie, with the characterizations — the characters were so outrageous. That was my other word I was thinking of — outrageous. Because these characters are, well, truly not from this planet.

Q: Could you describe the audience’s reception? What exactly happened on Friday night?

L: Well, there are “call-outs,” which are words or phrases that the audience will yell out to the actors during the show. And the interesting thing is, there are a lot of call-outs that are sort of standard — people learn them from long-time fans of the movie. But, when you have people who are not from this area, they might yell out something we’re not expecting.

R: We do have a production-specific call-out for this show. When Lindsay is doing a particular scene, she’s sitting on the edge of the bench…

L: Oh!

R: And she is actually masturbating on it, and on Friday someone called out —

L: ‘How’s that wood!?’ That was funny. I had a hard time not laughing.

R: Me too, and I was supposed to be frozen at the time. In a stage production it becomes even more interesting because, what happens, the audience gets to physically engage with another person.

Q: What’s the difference between the 16 and over and the 21 and over shows?

L: Same show, but no alcohol.

R: Half-naked bodies — still the same.

Q: What’s it like to stage “Rocky Horror” in an Irish bar? Seems incongruous…

R: Actually, it truly fits. The show takes place in a castle. In Frank’s castle. This whole layout [gestures across Playwright] in terms of the stonework, the archways, it looks like a castle. Our director’s comment to us, when she first decided to do it here and cast us, was that she truly wants the audience to feel like they are coming to Frank’s party.

L: And that’s how I play — the audience members, I think, are these bizarre individuals I’ve just encountered when I’ve entered the building. So I look at them as suspiciously as I look at the phantoms, or the actors.

Q: Did anyone dress up for the show on Friday or Saturday?

R: There were a couple Franks in the audience. There was an Eddy. Why, Ben, are you going to come see the show?

Q: It’s a busy weekend. I’d like to.

R: That’s being very evasive.

[Pause].

Q: So, um, maybe, you are… Randy, what do you have on Tim Curry?

R: I think I’m very different from Tim Curry. First of all, I am not as laid back as Tim Curry is. He plays Frank very back-pedalled. I think my Frank is a lot harder-edged.

L: Intense. Very intense and scary.

R: It’s not a “oh, warm fuzzy bubbly” kind of Frank, frolicking around on screen. My spin on the Frank character is, truly, a Prince from another planet, sort of a spoiled brat, so there’s much more attitude.

[A Playwright waitress serves chicken potpie to Randy].

R: There’s dinner!

Q: It’s customary for “Rocky Horror” audiences to call Janet a slut.

L: She’s very interesting because she undergoes this fantastic transformation. She enters the castle timid and afraid. What is this dark place? Who are these individuals? But when she gets taken by Frank at the opening of Act 2…

R: Literally taken.

L: Literally taken. I think she’s, you know, there’s an element of her that’s freaked out but she’s also completely excited by it. So then she subsequently seduces Rocky [Frank’s man-slave] because her sexuality has been awakened. But, BUT, in the end she has a very strong bond with Brad that’s not going to go away. It’s all the stronger because of this experience they’ve had in the castle.

[Interviewer takes out iPod. Selects the Alvin and the Chipmunks version of “Time Warp,” the musical’s iconic song and dance number. Hands iPod to Lindsay.]

Q: I have something… I just want to hear your reactions to it…

[Lindsay listens to Alvin and the Chipmunks.]

L: This is hilarious. This is terrifying… This is terrifying… It’s Alvin and the Chipmunks doing the time warp. It’s a whole different kind of scary. Very funny… but wrong. Wrong.

[Lindsay grimaces and puts down iPod].

Q: If Frank were at the Playwright right now, what would he order?

R: For food? Well, first of all, for a drink he’d probably order a Cosmopolitan. Because he likes it fairly hard.

Q: At the end of the movie, most of the characters blast off to the planet Transsexual. But we never see Transsexual. What do you think Transsexual looks like?

L: I think there is an elite, and they are studying humans, and that’s why they came to Earth in the first place. Everyone else I think is a little… I don’t know if it’s necessarily a beautiful place… I think there are a lot of… drugs.

R: It’s like “Caligula.” Have you ever seen the movie “Caligula?” Google it, Youtube it. “Caligula” takes place in Rome and it’s very… the only way to describe it is as an ongoing orgy.

Q: Is it ever inappropriate to do the Time Warp?

L: You mean like, in the show?

Q: Just anytime. Like, could we do it now?

R: Yeah. It’s… it’s just a jump to the left.

L: And then a step to the right.

[Lindsay and Randy stand up. Interviewer stands up. All three do the Time Warp].

Q: Am I doing it right?

L: You’ve got to keep thrusting.

R: Shake your boobies more. You’ve got to shake your boobies more.

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