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The magic of live theatre returns with Hoof 'n' Horn's "Rocky Horror"

After nearly two years since the last in-person mainstage production, Hoof ‘n’ Horn returned to performing in front of a live-audience with one of the most beloved cult classics this time of year: The Rocky Horror Show.

This beloved musical is certainly the perfect way to celebrate the Halloween season, but it is particularly special because of how long it’s been since a live mainstage production took place. The show serves as the first time performing in-person for many of the cast members since COVID disrupted several productions the past two years. For senior Logan Welborn, student arts were a huge part of her Duke experience, and “Rocky Horror” is a reminder of what we’ve missed.

“I feel very reenergized. I feel the joy that hadn’t been really part of our lives for the past year and a half,” said Welborn, who plays Janet Weiss in the production. “It’s like normal Duke again.”

The performance follows recently engaged sweethearts Brad and Janet, whose vanilla lifestyle is taken for a spin when they meet Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a snappy mad-scientist with hopes of creating the perfect man. For Welborn, auditioning for this show was a no-brainer.

“Rocky Horror is such a fun show. It’s relevant to so many different age groups and populations, and it’s right around Halloween,” said Welborn. “[Plus] having the opportunity to perform and hang out with some of my best friends – like why wouldn’t I audition?”

Jen Gobaira, co-director of the show, worked intensely and collaboratively with the production council and cast to capture the chaos and seductive tension that makes Rocky Horror so phenomenal. Gobaira noted how energetic the team was, especially for members who’ve never performed for Hoof ‘n’ Horn before.

“We have a lot of freshmen in our cast,” said Gobaira. “If they were in theatre in high school, they didn’t get a senior show, and you can feel their excitement waiting for something to express themselves in.”

This musical is among the first popular musicals to depict fluid sexuality and acceptance of sexual difference. The cast wanted to highlight the importance for marginalized communities to feel comfortable expressing their true selves and feel welcomed in all spaces.

“I hope people who are seeing the show can relate to the characters,” said Welborn. “The characters in the show are unapologetically themselves, so something Duke students can get out of this is being confident, being the most authentic versions of themselves.”

As per “Rocky Horror” tradition, there are lines audience members shout in response to events occurring on the stage, and the Hoof ‘n’ Horn team made it an imperative to involve the audience in ways to celebrate being in-person again.

“We encourage you to do audience call backs! We [also] have prop bags, so the audience is going to get to use a number of props throughout the show,” said Gobaira. “Come ready to give it your all and have fun. Dive into everything Rocky Horror is.”

Experiencing The Rocky Horror Show’s opening night was like no other. It was spectacular seeing the cast’s performance, hearing the live orchestra pit and witnessing the innovative technical execution. Many of the scenes integral to the musical were performed in clever and convincing ways that deserve to be appreciated  

Freshman Jack Sanitate, who played a mesmerizing Frank-N-Furter oozing with personality and confidence, spoke about the experience playing this iconic, alluring character as part of Hoof ‘n’ Horn.

“It’s so amazing to finally be on stage again in front of a live audience, and I think it makes it even more special that this is my first experience with Hoof n’ Horn,” Sanitate said. “I feel very honored to have been chosen for this role. It’s definitely big shoes to fill, but I’ll be adding my own flair while trying to be faithful to movie version everyone knows.”

Sanitate’s Frank-N-Furter, along with the rest of the cast, brought a unique style to their characters that left me in awe. Reflecting on this intensive yet fulfilling journey of this production, Gobaira is thankful for the friendships made between the entire group and how it emphasizes what Duke theatre is all about.

“As much as it’s a show that we’re putting on, it feels like we’re all just having fun together and the audience is going to be welcomed into that,” Gobaira said. “It’s a celebration of everything that we’ve been missing for the past two years.”

All in all, this production celebrates a lot of what’s been missing with in-person performances. The cast, crew and audience all play a part in making this show funny and charming. Whether this is your first time experiencing “The Rocky Horror Show,” or your 100th, you’ll be in for a titillating treat.

“Have fun! It’s a very fun show. It’s not a show you’re supposed to take too seriously, and it’s a lot of audience participation,” said Sanitate to future audience members. “When you’re coming to see Rocky Horror, you’re looking to have a good time, so I hope you have fun.”

If you missed out on opening weekend, don’t fret (-N-Furter)! Tickets to this scintillating rendition of “Rocky Horror” are available here for this coming weekend, Nov. 4 – 6.

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