We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
I was visiting London some 30 years ago when a friend who was trying to shock me dragged me to a stage musical that had just opened. “Supposed to be interesting” was all he’d say about it in advance. We entered an auditorium bisected by a runway and discovered that we were virtually the only male attendees not wearing mascara and heels. The Rocky Horror Show had been open for less than two weeks, but word had clearly gotten out about what Tim Curry and Richard O’Brien were up to in what was then a weird rock concert with a story—something about an all-American couple and a haunted house presided over by an alien transvestite. Three decades later, I enter Nation, the dance club on Half Street SE, and there’s that runway again, along with another raucous rock-concert version of a show most people now know as the ultimate midnight movie. Interesting time warp. Rick Hammerly, possibly the only actor whose résumé lists star turns as both Bette Davis and Hedwig, turns out to be a terrific Frank N. Furter. He struts around in a corset, scarlet fishnets, and platform boots, doing the part as Gloria Swanson might—ready for her close-up and singing baritone. His shaved head glints in the lights when he sweats through the pause in “Antici…pation.” Nick Blaemire’s Riff Raff is a glam-rock diva in burgundy leather pants, Jordan Price and Meagan Flannery are a full-voiced Brad and Janet, Peter Klaus is a mouthwatering Rocky, and as lyrics are projected on a big screen behind the appropriately ear-splitting rock band at the top of the runway ramp, all seems pretty right with the show. The actors are admirably unflustered by shoutbacks from the audience (for safety’s sake, props are forbidden) as Jeffrey Johnson’s staging sends them careening around Nation’s downstairs. (Patrons are encouraged to wander up to the balcony and out to the bar, pretty much at will.) Johnson has the wit to have the nightclub’s huge circular lighting grid descend, mothership-like, at evening’s end, and if his invention has otherwise flagged by that time, the show has built up a big enough head of steam in its first half that no one’s going to mind much. —Bob Mondello