One of the first coherent thoughts to form in my mind after seeing The Rocky Horror Show on Broadway was: "Gotta get the cast album, gotta get the cast album!" Lo and behold, a few months later, my editor hands me an advance copy of the BMG/RCA Victor CD. The pupils of my eyes dilate into two little saucers and my posture assumes a Riff Raff-like hunch. Snatching the album and running away faster than Rocky does from Frank 'N' Furter during the "Sword of Damocles" number, I pop the disc into my CD player. One hour of musical bliss follows.
After a second listen-through, the album reaffirmed that this revival of Rocky has one of the best rock musical casts ever assembled. Richard O'Brien's interactive midnight masterpiece has been repopulated with a trove of talented performers such as Tom Hewitt as Frank 'N' Furter, Daphne Rubin Vega as Magenta and the Usherette, Raúl Esparza as Riff Raff, Alice Ripley as Janet, Jarrod Emick as Brad, and TV personality Dick Cavett as the pithy Narrator. Sadly, the big news about the Rocky recording is that Joan Jett of Blackhearts fame is not on it, due to some kind of contract dispute. However, it's a treat to hear Kristen Lee Kelly as Columbia; an original cast member of Rent and an understudy for Yitzak in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Kelly puts her own signature on the role.
Hewitt is a powerhouse in heels as Frank. You can visualize his lip curls and growls as he delivers wacky, pouty, provocatively intoned lines in "Sweet Transvestite" and "I Can Make You a Man." As Riff, Esparza shatters dimensional barriers when he screams, "LIKE YOU'RE UNDER SEDA-A-A-TION!" in "Time Warp." Rubin Vega's breathy rendition of "Science Fiction Double Feature" is fantastic. And Lea DeLaria's double casting as Eddie and Dr. Scott is brilliant; it took a while for her "Hot Patootie" to grow on me, since Meat Loaf's version is so imprinted on my brain, but DeLaria's interpretation eventually took hold.
As Rocky, Sebastian LaCause is superb. Not only is he a Charles Atlas ad come to life, but he can also sing--unlike the Rocky in the movie version, who needed to be dubbed. Even the Phantoms who serve as the chorus in Rocky Horror include top-notch performers like Rent's Aiko Nakasone and Hedwig understudy Kevin Cahoon; their kick-ass vocals are very apparent in "Once in a While," a song cut from the movie but reinstated here.
Emick brings out Brad's Wonder Bread qualities remarkably well, while Ripley's humorous articulation as Janet is dead-on. In the show, Janet has lots of witty banter with Frank 'N' Furter, and it would have been great if some of that banter had made it onto the album. The same goes for the audience interaction and the Narrator's exposition. All of these aspects give a unique feel to the show that is largely missing from the CD, though we do get a few interjections from Cavett and a smattering of "Rocky participation" from the rest of the cast, filling in for the audience. On the whole, this album is a must-have for anyone who has seen the production and a should-have for die-hard Rocky fans and lovers of rock musicals in general.