Rocky Horror Finds A New Audience: The Menchville Monarchs


Kelly Ritenour

The cast of Rocky Horror performs at the American Theater on Halloween.

“It’s pure insanity, and I love it with all my heart.”

— Oliver Smith-Nolker

From the iconic soundtrack, to the wacky humor, to the allure of Dr. Frank n Furter, fans have stood by The Rocky Horror Picture Show since it’s original theatrical release in 1975.

The cult classic originally began as an onstage production directed and produced by Jim Sharman. It premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London on June 19th, 1973. After many successful runs in London, Los Angeles, and a brief time on Broadway, the play was adapted into the groundbreaking film known widely today.

The film premiered at the United Artists Theater in Los Angeles on September 26th, 1975. It later began airing as a midnight movie at the Waverly Theater in New York on April 1st of the following year. Audience members began the tradition of screaming puns and obscenities at the screen, as well as interacting with the film through props brought from home. Little did the avid patrons of the Waverly Theater’s midnight show know that they had just begun a tradition that would continue on for generations.

Nowadays, midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show can be found in almost every city, each with a cast of actors dressed as the characters, playing alongside the film and lip-syncing to the musical numbers. Both the audience and the actors scream witty one-liners at the screen, throwing props like bread and rice, and squirting water guns into the air.

Late night Rocky Horror shows have become synonymous with the cult classic movie universe. It is almost like a rite of passage for theater and film lovers to attend a midnight showing, often in their teens.

Math teacher Ken Zoby says that Rocky Horror has gotten a lot more ‘edgy’ since his first viewing in the 1980s: “I think things evolve,” explains Zoby. ‘There isn’t that much of a difference. The movie is still up there. You still have the core. But I think people want different things. I think it’s just natural evolution.”

“I’m glad it’s still going on. A lot of the people who are interested in it are folks that are teenagers or maybe in their 20s. It still has interest to me as I look back- a little nostalgia. But it does seem to give people a chance to express themselves; maybe a crowd that doesn’t always fit into all the cliques of high school. They’ve got their part out there.”

Menchville has their own group of close-knit young teens who have found a love for Rocky Horror. Many of them attend monthly midnight performances at the Naro Cinema in Norfolk.

Jack Willoughby
Students from Menchville High School attend a performance of the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Naro Cinema.

“The audience that shows up to Rocky is probably the strangest group of people I’ve ever met in my life. That’s why my friends and I fit in so well. Everyone is loud, obscene, and absolutely insane. It’s truly a different breed. The cast members are amazing people, too. We’ve actually made a few friends with the eccentric people of Fishnet Inc (The Rocky Horror cast at the Naro). My favorite part of the show is the Time Warp. When everyone gets up to dance together, it really feels like we’re part of the show. It’s pure insanity, and I love it with all my heart,” says senior Oliver Smith-Nolker, who began attending Rocky Horror performances with his friends March of 2018.

Rocky Horror gave me a sense of community I’d never felt before, outside of the Menchville Theatre Department,” he continues. “Someone like me will always be an outsider, between my eccentric goth style and vulgar sense of humor, there are very few people that manage to understand why I am the way I am. But, when I step into the Naro, I’m surrounded by tons of goth people with gross humor! It means everything to me.”

Anna Gradel is a member of the Norfolk Rocky Horror cast who joined December of 2017: “What’s not to love about Rocky Horror!” Gradel remarks. “What drew me in most was the unconditional love and acceptance for everyone no matter what. This is the safe place where everyone can fly their freak flag. It’s the love that keeps this show going. Its the best feeling to walk outside after a show and see the audience smiling, laughing, and talking to us about how Rocky has helped them. If [with] every show our cast can make just one person feel accepted, we’re doing something right.”

Menchville class of 2018 Alumnus Camden Hunt began attending Rocky performances with his friends during his senior year, and fell in love instantly: “It is a wild, extraterrestrial good time for people who want to be around other weirdos. Rocky Horror has huge emotional significance to me, because when I was younger it was one of the first movies that I really felt embraced a lot of things people say to reject. My first time going to it live was early 2018 and I expected it to be crazy, yet great, and it was. The audience was really into the show and the cast was well rehearsed and knew all of the callbacks and jokes to make,” Hunt acknowledges.

“It’s less of a movie and more of an experience,” describes Junior Tori Rimes. “Rocky Horror is a huge part of my life. I look forward to it every month. I have spent countless hours listening to the soundtrack, putting together prop kits, or working on costumes. At the end of the day, Rocky Horror is a community of people who support each other and come together because of our common love for this classic movie.”