In the year 2056 – the not so distant future – an epidemic of organ failures devastates the planet. Out of the tragedy, a savior emerges: GeneCo, a biotech company that offers organ transplants, for a price. Those who miss their payments are scheduled for repossession and hunted by villainous Repo Men. In a world where surgery addicts are hooked on painkilling drugs and murder is sanctioned by law, a sheltered young girl searches for the cure to her own rare disease as well as information about her family’s mysterious history. After being sucked into the haunting world of GeneCo, she is unable to turn back, as all of her questions will be answered at the wildly anticipated spectacular event: The Genetic Opera.
Some of you may be familiar with the idea of shadowcasting (A group of people that performs a movie in front of a screen while that movie is playing; they essentially pantomime the movie.*). Most people equate it with Rocky Horror, but guess what? It’s done with Repo! as well.
This past weekend, I finally had the chance to head down to Jackson, Michigan to the Michigan Theatre to see The Michigan Theatre Players in their version of Repo! The Genetic Opera. They only perform this show once every few months so it was lucky for me that my schedule opened up and I could drive on down.
I have to start out by saying that I love the theatre that they’re in. It’s old and you can tell that at one point it was very classy. Right now, it looks more like it’s in the rehabilitation stages but that’s absolutely perfect for adding to the atmosphere of a show like Repo!
With most of these performances, the cast comes out to do some sort of pre-show. Quite often it involves audience participation. In this case, however, the cast performed vignettes representing deleted scenes from the movie. Some were good, at least one was a little awkward but it was an interesting introduction to the show itself, for sure. This was followed up by a costume contest with the top two yell getters receiving free concessions. I think it would have been fun for the cast to throw in a free vial of Zydrate to again tie in with the film/show, but either way, the people on stage seemed to have fun.
Then, the lights went down and the show began…
My general take on the show? It was well done. The cast knew their lines and they knew their marks. Quite often shadowcasting is done essentially as a pantomime. Think of it like well, miming..lip syncing..However, this cast actually delivers the lines. This is a touchy area for some fans of the shadowcast. Some like it and some absolutely hate it. I don’t tend to mind it when it’s done right. I made a note during one of the scenes that if you’re going to say the lines, you have to be dead on. There were a few times when the lines being delivered by Rotti would be on screen and then you’d hear them right after from the actor. It tends to be distracting from what’s going on. That being said, they knew their lines. They just need to work a bit more on the delivery.
In some shows, you have cast members who come out on stage, win over the audience and everyone else fades into the background. In this case, while this cast was young, it was well rounded. I was highly impressed with the girls playing both Luigi and Pavi. Their performances drew you in. Graverobber, while young, delivered a performance that showed he was passionate about the show. Nate/Repo Man was intense in the right spots, a frustrated parent in others and a crazy nut job when the time called.
My one major problem with this performance? Not the costumes. While some were clearly works in progress, they were all well put together. Not the cast. Though, Nathan needs to work on that slap he delivers to Shilo. I want the sound and the illusion. Sadly, it was the audience. Repo!, just like Rocky, is built for audience participation and this audience sat silently for most of the show. My guess is that this is simply because Repo! is not nearly as performed as Rocky and so people just haven’t learned that they can jump in and have some fun with it too.
My suggestion to the cast? Fill yourself out with some extras who just want to have some fun. Make them your attackers in the fight scene (invisible ninjas are cool too though!) and make them Genterns. Get them to prompt your audience or scatter a few throughout the audience to start the call backs. Once that ice is broken, your audience will jump right into the fun.
For those of you who are interested in checking out this show, I do want to warn you that the Jackson cast adds in touches of realism and it may not be for everyone. Then again, if I can handle it, I suspect most of you can as well. We all know what a wuss I can be. Not in Michigan and still want to see the show? Don’t panic. Panicing never helps. Instead, click on this pretty little link and find the closest group performing. Personally, I can highly recommend both the Jackson, Michigan performance as well as the Toledo, Ohio performance. They’re both a different take but both very good. If you’re a fan of Rocky Horror, be sure to check out the Michigan Theatre Players performing it at this year’s Detroit Fanfare!
Until the next time I can see either show…you’ll probably hear me humming the various songs. Dang those catchy rock horror operatic tunes…
*Photo Credits: Jeff Dobbs