Sweet Transvestites Make Way to Movieland
John Crespo introduces himself. He isn’t wearing any pants. He apologizes as he scurries to get into his Magenta costume for tonight’s live cast performance of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at Movieland at Boulevard Square. Usually he plays Riff-Raff or Brad, but as director, he’s stepping in for another actor that couldn’t make it.
Tonight, Crespo’s not the only one gender bending. Assistant director Travis Everett has his arched brows drawn on, he’s skirted up in polka-dot blouse, and has his red wig in place for his role as Columbia. It’s only appropriate for a movie that deals with sexual expression.
He with the rest of the cast lip-synch, dance, make innuendo and get the audience riled up while the 70′s cult classic plays on screen in the background. They do it for the thrill. They do it for the Orgasmic Rush of Lust, their cast name that was taken from a line in the movie.
“I love the whole thing with the audience,” Everett says. “It’s really beautiful.”
You could call this production a revival of sorts. Crespo found Richmond’s live cast in 2004 after going to shows in Fairfax and Norfolk. The shows took a sudden, 3-year hiatus due to a lack of venue until they moved to Fallout in Shockoe Bottom. When the new theater was opening, Crespo got in touch with Bow Tie Partners, the company that owns Movieland. The company’s COO used to play Meatloaf’s character Eddie in another city’s live cast and was excited to get “Rocky Horror” added to Movieland’s regular lineup.
For Crespo, performing has not only been a creative outlet, but also helped him become more comfortable with his own sexuality.
“When I started ["Rocky Horror"], I hadn’t come out yet,” he says. “I was very shy back then and I thought this was a way to get out there and get more social with people. It helped me come out to everybody.
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The movie has a mass appeal and the showings have brought an eclectic mix since opening at Movieland. From West End moms with kids to groups of gays, they’ve had everything in between. Having a cast from all walks of life, Crespo says, has helped appeal to a wide audience – straight, gay, transgendered, from theater background to no stage experience. His cast runs the gamut and right now, he’s continuing to grow the cast.
“I try to keep the cast as open as possible,” Crespo says. “I’ve heard that other “Rocky” casts are elitist. We’re not that way. I feel that everyone should get a chance.”
Starting this week, the cast adds a Friday night show and an extra element of audience participation. Sorry – no squirt guns, confetti, or rice at Movieland, but for $1, patrons can buy a kit of traditional Rocky paraphernalia like toast and toilet paper.
“The fact that we have a [rotating] live cast, you never know what you’re going to get,” Crespo says. “You might get a male Magenta and a male Columbia and sometimes you get pre-shows.”
The director says that “Rocky Horror’s” key line of “Don’t dream it, be it.” sums up the movies appeal.
“It tells people, don’t hide yourself, be who you are. Everyone is very open and free in the movie and can do what they want. You have straight relationships in the movie. You have gay relationships and you have the bisexual relationships,” he says.
“Then, you have the people that just really want to be in the spotlight.”
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