is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Director Nelson & Choreographer Fitzpatrick Earn Kudos For Rocky's Facelift

The Rocky Horror Show
Choreographer Jenny Fitzpatrick and
Director Wesley Nelson

The reviews are in, and The Rocky Horror Show is a hit!  With accolades being showered and peppered everywhere in print, word-of-mouth, and by golly, even radio for its costuming, choreography, direction, music and singing, the scandalous and sultry SummerFest production is enjoying the smiles of appreciative audiences and critics alike.  

Wes and Bobby
 "A little over four years ago before
I started my last tour I met and
fell in love with my partner Bobby.
Once I completed that tour,
I knew it was time to finally come back
and make Lexington my home.
When I came back I found a thriving
theatre community and slowly began making
myself a part of that."
Director Wes Nelson must (and should) be giddy with delight that his unique take on the cult classic has sashayed right into the moonlight, backlit by the arboretum sunset.  

Nelson’s KCT collaboration with choreographer Jenny Fitzpatrick is proving to be quite the crowd favorite, and nobody could be happier than Nelson, who has giddily worked with Fitzpatrick before. 

 “I am so happy to say that this is not my first time working with Jenny…nor will it be my last! We have ‘played’ together in so many different capacities. We met Jenny when she choreographed a production of Oklahoma! 

I was in for the Woodford Theatre, and during the dance callbacks at the auditions she advised those auditioning to, ‘Hang on like hair on a biscuit!’ As soon as I heard that, I knew we would be friends! Hahaha. Since then I have had the privilege of directing her in a production of Dear Harvey. The Rocky Horror Show is the first time that we have finally gotten the chance to collaborate as director and choreographer.

“Jenny and I absolutely love working together on projects. It’s not often that you get to work this closely with someone you consider to be one of your best friends. We both know that this is only the beginning on several projects that we will collaborate on. We like to joke that I am Bob Fosse and she is Gwen Verdon….or I’m Gwen Verdon and she is Bob Fosse. We still haven’t quite got that one figured out!

Back to the Show
I asked Wes if he was as worried as I was about the weather -- how does he make adjustments for the weather, does he have emergency planned choreography ahead of time, or do you rehearse as if the weather is gorgeous?  He fearlessly answered, “I have a long history of working in outdoor theatre. I worked professionally for Jenny Wiley Theatre for over ten years. So coming into this project I was very conscious about the challenges of working outside. My goal for preparing the actors was for them to know their show inside and out. By the time we finally got the chance to be on the actual outdoor stage, I wanted their choreography, singing, and acting choices to be second nature. This allows them to be totally prepared for the unpredictable weather, bugs, heat, and helicopters that the stage at the arboretum is known for. Oh….and bats and intoxicated audiences (not judging LOL).

Since Rocky Horror is such a cult favorite, what can cult audiences expect to see that they haven't loved before? Nelson makes no bones about his pro-active approach to bringing a new look and feel to the show. “When I took on this project I knew from the beginning that I wanted it to be original, or what I like to call ‘our’ Rocky. Richard O’Brien wrote an insane show about endless possibilities, thinking outside the box, and exploring secret desires. Although I am a fan of the movie (I adore Tim Curry…especially in the movie Clue), I felt it would be a great disservice to O’Brien’s original concept to give our audiences a carbon copy of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I have directed and encouraged the cast and designers to make new and original choices while always remembering to be true to the story. I feel like we have given The Rocky Horror Show a facelift. This is 2011’s Rocky. The visual elements of the show, from the choreography to the costumes, to the set, are thought edgy and modern. The tempos of the songs are faster and have more of a rock concert feel.” 

When I inquired about audience participation, Wes told me, “If the audience decides to bring toast they should know that I prefer my toast lightly toasted with a generous layer of strawberry jam and some scrambled eggs. LOL, Just kidding…but that does sound tasty. The audience will inevitably bring several of the well know audience participation items. However, we have not designed this version of Rocky to cater to the typical props and ad libs. Richard O’Brien was once asked in an interview about the audience participation elements. He clarified that all of that evolved from the movie. In the movie the lines are always delivered the same, the songs are always the same tempos, and there is nothing in front of them except a movie screen. He went on to say that he and the director of the current revival of Rocky he was working on at the time wanted to give the show back to the actors on stage. That is the beauty of live theatre! If the actors are tied to holding for inserted lines and the fear of toast flying at their head they cannot truly create and live in these characters. However, with all of that in mind this cast has completely immersed themselves in these characters…so if the audiences wants to play, the cast is more than ready to play back. Just don’t expect the canned responses you are used to! ;-) These guys are clever!”

I wondered how he found his way to SummerFest 2011's closing spectacular, and from his side of the story, you'd think that directing comes naturally to Nelson, who admits he was a bit of a bossy-bones even as a youngster.  "I graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a BFA in Performance, but theatre was a part of my life long before that. I remember ‘directing’ the other kids in school during rehearsals for our school Christmas plays every year. Ok…maybe I was a little bossy…LOL. I was extremely lucky to grow in a community with a well-established professional summer theatre, Jenny Wiley Theatre -- that is where my real education began. Over the 10 years I worked there, I was surrounded by professional actors from all across the U.S. As I entered college I knew theatre would always be a part of my life; I began working as an actor for regional professional theatres in Texas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Kansas, Florida, Arizona, and I had the great privilege of doing two tours that allowed me to see even more states (even if it was just on one night). A little over four years ago before I started my last tour I met and fell in love with my partner Bobby. Once I completed that tour, I knew it was time to finally come back and make Lexington my home. When I came back, I found a thriving theatre community and slowly began making myself a part of that. I actually ended up taking a few jobs as choreographer for some shows (that was many many pounds ago) and while choreographing Oliver! for the Woodford Theatre, Beth Kirchner recognized something in me. She saw a director and encouraged me to explore that side of me. That’s when I caught ‘the bug.’ Since then I have focused more on directing and less on acting. I have directed Honky Tonk Angels Holiday Spectacular (looooong title), The Laramie Project, How to Eat Like a Child (along with Jenny), and Dear Harvey over the past couple of years. I really look forward to diving more into the world of directing in the future. I definitely know that future will involve collaborating with Jenny. We have a great artistic chemistry and understanding of each other. We have discussed several theatrical projects that we want to bring to Lexington
Wesley Nelson
stages. There are some long term plans in the works….but you will have to wait in antici…..pation to hear about those,” he teases.

Finally, I asked Wes if he had a secret talent, one he would share with my readers...and his answer is as intriguing as the magic he and his cast and crew have brought to the arboretum stage:

"Often times to entertain my friends I will do a Julia Child impersonation and host my own cooking show…using liquor as my ingredients!"

To which, I have to say -- oh, Wesley Nelson, you clarify my butter!


ARE YOU READY TO ROCK?!?!?! Join us for a new and monsterous spin on this cult classic! SummerFest closes its 2011 Season with The Rocky Horror Show - July 20-24, directed by Wes Nelson with choreography by Jenny Fitzpatrick, new muscial arrangements by Meg Stohlmann & Judi Reynolds, and music by The Johnson Brothers!

For more info visit: http://www.summerfestlex.o​rg/

Frank-n-furter: Christopher Baker
Janet: Meaghan Sharrard
Brad: Wood Van Meter
Narrator/Eddie: Matt Seckman
Riff Raff: Jerome McIlvain
Magenta: Alicia Cox
Columbia: Cindy Head
Rocky: Whit Whitaker
Dr. Scott: Greg Jones

Phantoms: Jenny Fitzpatrick
Stephanie Valentino
Michael Baird, U/S Riff Raff
Katie Berger, U/S Columbia

Spirits: John Code, U/S Brad & Dr. Scott
Rebecca Keith, U/S Janet
Sharonda Lynn Piersall, U/S Magenta
Catherine Borland
Alex Hagan 


This show is Count Chockula full of delightful, talented folks:  Stage Manager Tressa Bowling (remember last year's RENT? that was Tressa at the lightboard, she's one of the best); Costume designer Patrick Howell has costumed for stage and film and has brought Frank-N-Furter and Company back to life with a wild new look and style; Accompanist Judi Reynolds and the fine, fine group of musicians who call themselves The Johnson Brothers will be providing music beyond belief; and choir conductor and educator Meg Stohlmann makes her SummerFest debut as music director.  Add all those wonderful names to the star-studded cast -- Wood Van Meter as Brad, are you kidding me? Triple threat Wood's talent is such that you just can't believe how young he is, he sings, dances, probably can juggle chainsaws. heh -- At any rate, he's just one among an incredible slew of talented cast members.  Put all the cast, crew, music, direction, choreography together and quite simply, you have all the right salty and spicy ingredients for a Rocky Horror Show that will shiver your timbers.  

Call or click today and get your ticket.  The setting is gorgeous, the crowd is crazy and the show will make you do the Time Warp again and again...shows start at 9pm, gates open at 7 -- and lambchops, I really hope I get to see you at the show!

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