Weekender

‘Rocky Horror’ moves to downtown State College

Many cast members in Love and Light Productions’ “The Rocky Horror Show” have been in the show for several years.
Many cast members in Love and Light Productions’ “The Rocky Horror Show” have been in the show for several years. Photo provided

The Rocky Horror Show” will return to State College for its annual Halloween revelry, but this time the production will be at The State Theatre.

Love and Light Productions has been bringing “Rocky Horror” to Happy Valley for eight years, but this will be their largest venue to date.

“It kind of happened naturally,” said Alicia Starr, producer and artistic director for the production. “We are doing ‘American Idiot’ there in the spring, that has been booked for a while. We’ve done other spring shows and they’ve all done very well, but I was just ready to take the more musical-style shows like those to an actual theater.”

Then, Starr said The State Theatre expressed interest in the production company using its stage for the seasonal classic.

“We sat down and chatted, and I felt like it was time. It was just time for us to take our production downtown and open it up to a different, hopefully larger audience,” Starr said. “The Arena has been a wonderful venue, and we have a wonderful relationship with them. We were just ready to take it to a different venue and get the show in a theater.”

Every year, “Rocky Horror” changes slightly. Last year’s show will not be the same as this year’s performance.

“The production certainly gets larger every year,” Starr said. “It grows, it changes. The thing that keeps it evolving is our open casting policy. We’re always bringing in new cast members, new musicians and we all really work together as a team instead of me making every single call. I like us all to come together and make it a team effort.”

The current iteration of the show is the brainchild of Starr and her husband, Greg Mudzinski. The pair formed Love and Light Productions nearly a decade ago.

“Love and Light started with our first show in 2008,” Starr said. “We started at The Brewery our very first year, then we moved to the Arena in 2009. We’ve also toured. We toured to New York City, Williamsport, Delaware and Philly. My husband and I started it in 2008. Another theater company had been performing it in 2006, and that’s how we met. I played Janet, and he was the musical director. That company disbanded, and we kind of decided to just do it.”

Starr believes this to be a very special area for performers, with State College loaded with talent.

“That’s a neat thing about Centre County: There’s so much theater!” Starr said. “The cool thing about us is that we’re very unique to our style. We do a little bit more edgy, adult style musicals. It’s not going to be something that you’re going to take your 5-year-old daughter to see. We’re picking more adult-style musical theater. We’ve been doing it for so long, I just really want to get the style of theater that my husband and I choose, that we put our passion into, out to audiences. For example, college crowd, I think most of them didn’t know that what we were doing even existed because we weren’t downtown. Now, we’re right across the street from them. I don’t know if it will work, but I hope so!”

Fans of the movie, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” will notice differences with the live performance.

“It’s the same premise, but it’s not the same show,” Starr said. “It’s more in-your-face and audience interactive. We love call backs, we love being close to the audience. There will be surprises that audiences will not be expecting.”

Troupe members are known to change roles from year to year, and not just acting roles. Some cast members have been part of the band or crew over the years.

For Kevin Patterson, musical director and guitarist for “The Rocky Horror Show,” it’s his third time doing the show with Love and Light Productions.

“The thing that makes our show stand out from any old performance of ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ is its originality,” he said. “Every member of the production can put their own personal spin on their character, the song arrangement, the costume design or whatever. From the bands’ standpoint, we aren’t going to just play the songs like they are in the book. No, we take a song and think how we can make it our own. The same goes for each actor, they get to re-create their character in the show. I think that’s a more exciting show than watching people act it out while the movie plays in the background.”

Patterson believes that every year’s iteration of the show breathes fresh life into a musical that’s more than four decades old.

“Even though it’s the same show I’ve done three times, each show is unique and awesome in its own way. It is definitely worth enjoying year after year,” he said.

The annual presentation of “Rocky Horror” features some familiar faces, but it’s also always ready to change it up with new, local cast members.

“I play Columbia, one of the servants and Frank’s biggest fan. She’s bright, colorful, playful, with a huge heart that is unfortunately broken and/or trampled at different points in the show,” cast member Rachel Moon said.

Moon’s passion for “Rocky Horror” began at a very young age. She feels that the gruelingly hard work put in by the company makes the final product even better for audiences.

“I loved the movie and didn’t think I would ever see another version of it that I would love more, that was until I joined Love and Light last year,” Moon said. “What I don’t think a lot of people realize about the live show is that there is so much heart, soul, talent and creativity that go into putting this show on every year. Everyone works so hard for three months to make this show sparkle.”

Attendees from previous years will recognize some cast members, even if they’re in different parts.

“I play Brad Majors in this year’s production. In the past, I have played Frank-N-Furter twice and have been the musical director and bass guitarist for the band several times,” Mudzinski said. “Love and Light Productions is known for our daring and dangerous rock musicals, and ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ is no exception. Those who have followed the show since our early years need no further convincing to get their tickets. Those who have not yet seen ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ should come to see what has become a local institution and a hilarious and scandalous Halloween tradition.”

Now performing on its biggest stage yet, the troupe hopes to bring its own unique brand of live theater to even broader audiences.

“From basement bars to the stage of The State Theatre, Love and Light has grown and progressed, and has now become more accessible to a wider audience,” Mudzinski said. “Being State College’s vigilante theatre company, we answer to no one. It is a wonderful freedom that allows us to produce daring and dangerous shows with no compromise. This sexy and seductive show features some of the best talent around. From the vivacious and dynamic cast to the amazingly talented and raucous band, this show is, as the song goes, wild and untamed.”

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