If they haven’t yet, Dion Stover tells every actor he meets, “You need to do 'Rocky Horror.'”
And that’s mainly because of the audience that never fails to accompany the show.
The Chicago-based actor got his first taste of that audience — known for dressing up in costume and yelling out traditional (and untraditional) callbacks during songs or scenes — last October in the Circa ‘21 Speakeasy’s debut of “The Rocky Horror Show.
“I performed in a 4,000 seat house in St. Louis that was sold out and I thought hearing the applause of those people was something,” he said. “To feel the energy and excitement the audience brings to you, you would think they’re coming to see Michael Jackson.”
That’s one reason Stover has returned to play Frank N. Furter in a two-weekend run of the musical — an enduring tribute to B-grade horror movies of the 1950s and 60s — at the 130-seat venue neighboring the Circa ‘21 Dinner Playhouse.
It opens Friday.
“It’s like being at a big party and at the same time everyone wants to be there and is happy to be there,” Stover said.
Husband and wife directors Erin and Bret Churchill also signed on again for “The Rocky Horror Show,” which they say is a change-of-pace for directors and actors alike.
“It’s not like anything you’ve ever tackled,” Erin Churchill, who met her husband at Circa ‘21, said. “We worked really hard last year. There were a lot of little challenges putting a big show on in that small space. Once we did it and it went well, we were reeling from it. We saw this an opportunity to tackle those challenges and make our vision come to life.”
This year, they spent more of their budget on costumes and props. Plus, they supplied microphones for the 10-person cast.
“A lot of (the challenge) was sound,” Erin Churchill said. “We were banking on the projection of the actors’ voices, but it did create moments where they couldn’t hear.”
“It’s hard when you have 60 people shouting over one voice,” Bret Churchill added.
The directors prepare the cast for the audience by yelling out callbacks during rehearsal.
“The moment you get the audience in there, it changes,” Erin Churchill said. “They are another character in the show.”
And there are times that they “just lose their minds after hearing a single thump in the music.”
There are several moments like that throughout the musical, which is based on the 1975 movie that originally flopped in theaters. But, as Churchill said, there was just something about the story that turned it into an on-stage and screen cult favorite full of tunes such as “Sweet Transvestite,” “Hot Patootie” and “Time Warp." It follows a clean-cut engaged couple who, after getting a flat tire, visit a castle run by Frank N. Furter and his crew, including aliens and a mad scientist.
"People really love these characters," Stover said. "They love them so much that they dress up like them."
After last year's performances, almost of all which sold out, Stover polled his actor friends who were in "The Rocky Horror Show" in Oregon and St. Louis.
"I wanted to know if the audiences were like this everywhere," he said. "I learned there's always a following no matter where you go."