When it comes to Halloween for adults in Montreal, there is no tradition more sacred than Rocky Horror. For over twenty years, the city has featured two ways to get one’s Rocky Horror fix every October: The Halloween Ball at the Imperial, and Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show at the Mainline Theatre.
The Halloween Ball usually featured a costume contest, followed by an interactive screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show with actors pantomiming on stage at the same time. The Rocky Horror Show at the Mainline is quite a different beast, with actors acting, singing, and dancing the musical play that lead to the movie.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2019 and both events were cancelled, with the Mainline’s show going on hiatus for nearly three years. The organizers of the Halloween Ball tried to make up for public health measures with an online screening, but their charging full price admission kept people away.
Though public health restrictions have mostly been lifted, the Halloween Ball has been postponed until September 2023, so people will have to go to the show at the Mainline to get their Rocky Horror fix. Regarding demand, the ticket sales are proof enough, for the Mainline run sold out before its premier on October 20, 2022.
I’ve been a Rocky Horror devotee since my mid-teens. For me, a social outcast, the events signified freedom from alienation where no matter how you presented yourself the cast and crowd were there to welcome you.
For the director of Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show at Mainline, Amy Blackmore, Rocky Horror represents home, nostalgia, and escapism:
“I think folks love that when you walk in and sit down you can forget everything else…I think that in our case we have fun with it, it’s campy, and above all, it’s the callbacks.”
For those who have never seen the show or attended the Halloween Ball aka “Rocky Virgins”, the callbacks are heckles in response to the actors. While throwing things is not permitted at the Mainline show, audiences are encouraged to use common callbacks you can find easily online, or invent your own. Blackmore encourages fans of the Halloween Ball and movie to see the live musical.
“The Rocky Horror Show came first. They’re two different experiences but they’re familiar nonetheless….For anyone who’s never seen the live version, I highly recommend it because it can just augment your love and appreciation for Richard O’Brien’s work.”
Though public health restrictions have been largely lifted, COVID-19 is still very much part of life so I was curious as to how Amy Blackmore ensured the safety of cast and crew during the production. Blackmore welcomed the question, talking about the show’s regular hand washing and use of masks, only going without them during the week of the premier.
She spoke also of how health concerns affected the intimacy direction of the show, and how the floor show performers were reduced from the fifteen of past shows to seven, and their physical interaction with the audience was more limited. While audience members are encouraged to wear masks, the Mainline isn’t making it mandatory.
For regular attendees of The Rocky Horror Show at Mainline, myself included, I was dying to know what else had changed from past runs. Blackmore was coyly evasive.
“There’s definitely some fun new little secrets that’ll be revealed. What’s exciting is that we have decided to bring back most of the cast that we all love, Steph (Stephanie McKenna) as Frank, Megan Vera Starling who won the META Award for Outstanding Supporting Role in our production of 2018, and of course Kenny (Streule) as the narrator…We have a new Rocky this year, which I’m pretty thrilled about. It’s a different take! You’re gonna have to come and check it out! We can’t reveal all of our secrets!”
Though my love of Rocky Horror is unconditional, it saddened me to hear that the mostly white cast of past runs was coming back, especially given the ever present need for more diversity in all areas of life. Blackmore admits that because this year was a remount of the pre-pandemic show, they didn’t bother to hold auditions. She encourages people of all backgrounds to come out and audition for future runs.
Mainline presents Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show at Mainline Theatre from October 27 to October 31, 2022. Though the show is sold out, be sure to check out future runs!