Let's Do the Time Warp Again!

The spring of 1999 ... oh, it had such promise once. It was to be splendid with freshening showers and profusions of bluebonnets and, oh yes,Joe York in fishnets again. In addition to the traditional signs of the season, locals were to be treated to the hunky theatre hero strutting across the Zachary Scott Theatre Center Kleberg stage in the hose and high heels of Dr. Frank N. Furter as the capper to Zach's 1998-99 season. But just as the skies withheld the rain and the fields withheld the flowers, so too did the theatrical Powers That Be withhold The Rocky Horror Show from Austin. A couple of months ago, Zach's Producing Artistic Director Dave Steakley was notified that another production company had secured the national rights to the musical, and as of that moment, all scheduled productions in the U.S. were shut down. It made no difference how far a locally produced Rocky Horror might be from the city in which the national Rocky Horror was running or touring, or how soon it was scheduled to open, permission to proceed with the production was withdrawn. So, despite the fact that production work was beginning and that York had committed the time to Zach, Steakley was forced to pull the plug and scramble to find a replacement for the Kleberg's May-June slot. (Oh, if you're experiencing a feeling of déjà vu, don't be alarmed; this happened to Zach two years ago when it announced the Kander & Ebb musical Chicago as its late-spring special, only to have the rights pulled when the national tour of the current Broadway revival fired up.)

Finding a suitable replacement for a one-of-a-kind show like Rocky Horror proved ... uh, tricky. Do you go for something campy, or something that rocks, or something funny, or just do the drag thang? Steakley could find shows with one or two of the elements that drew him to add The Rocky Horror Show to his theatre's season, but nothing that mixed all the elements in quite the same way that that over-the-top tribute to old sci-fi flicks did. Eventually, he settled on a project very close in spirit to Rocky Horror -- it had the camp, it had drag, it had a spooky old manse and a goofy affection for monsters of yore -- and it suited his leading man. He pitched it to York, York agreed to do it, and The Mystery of Irma Vep, A Penny Dreadful, by Charles Ludlam was added to the season. Still, despite his confidence in the project, Steakley didn't feel it was the right show for the mainstage's late spring slot. So he took Zach's signature rock & roll hit Beehive, scheduled for a summer revival, moved it to a May opening and slotted Irma Vep to the summer. It will open July 22, with York and Martin Burke of The Santaland Diaries starring, and musical director par excellence Allen Robertson performing a live score a la silent films and live sound effects.

In the meantime, Steakley refused to give up on Rocky Horror. He continued to petition for an exemption from the production blackout. And colleagues Pebbles Wadsworth at the UT Performing Arts Center and Paul Beutel at the Paramount Theatre even offered to write a letter in support of Zach. But as it turned out, their help wasn't needed. Last week, Steakley was notified by letter that an exemption was being granted, and Zach could proceed with its production. Steakley and company were elated. Unfortunately, at this point, they didn't have the time to get the show ready by May. So Steakley has decided that Rocky Horror with Joe York as Frank N. Furterwill open its 1999-2000 season. Come September 29, Zach -- and you -- can do the Time Warp again. Call 476-0541 for more info.

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Zachary, Scott Theatre Center, Joe York, Dave Steakley, The Rocky Horror Show, Paul Beutel, Paramount Theatre, Pebbles Wadsworth, Ut Performing Arts Center, Martin Burke, Allen, Robertson

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