I see you shiver with an­tic­i­pa­tion

Dan Chameroy has por­trayed hun­dreds of char­ac­ters, but none quite like Rocky Hor­ror’s Dr. Frank N. Furter

North Toronto Post - - Currents - by Ron John­son

When you sink into the plush seats of the Avon The­atre in Strat­ford, Ont., sur­rounded by a sea of sil­ver­haired the­atre-go­ers in the mid­dle of the af­ter­noon, the sexed-up, raunchy pro­duc­tion of the Rocky

Hor­ror Show is about as far from the ex­pected as you’d imag­ine. And that’s re­ally the fun of it.

With Toronto ac­tor Dan Chameroy in the lead role, the

Rocky Hor­ror Show is a ru­n­away hit and has been ex­tended un­til at least the end of Novem­ber.

Look­ing for a per­fect Hal­loween road trip? Take a step to the left, and then a jump to the right, and do “The Time Warp” straight down High­way 401 to the sleepy the­atre town best known for pre­sent­ing the works of the Bard and parad­ing honk­ing swans about town like pets.

For those unini­ti­ated to the rit­u­als of the Rocky Hor­ror Show, the mu­si­cal was orig­i­nally cre­ated by Richard O’Brien and pre­miered in 1973 in a West End the­atre in Lon­don, Eng­land. So, it’s al­ways had that plush seat thing.

The show hit Broad­way in 1975, the same year that the film ver­sion pre­miered. The Rocky Hor­ror Pic­ture Show fa­mously starred Tim Curry as the la­texed and fish­net­ted Dr. Frank N. Furter. It was the era of Rocky Hor­ror.

As a re­sult of its au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion el­e­ment, where peo­ple are en­cour­aged to shout out and throw things with reck­less aban­don, as well as its sense­less but de­cid­edly sexy fun, the film was a cult hit and con­tin­ues to play to au­di­ences in many ma­jor cities around the world, in­clud­ing Toronto.

In­vari­ably, with each screen­ing a shadow cast of ac­tors ap­pears on­stage to kinda sorta act out the play and en­cour­age au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion.

This spirit of par­tic­i­pa­tion is alive and well in Strat­ford’s stage ver­sion. As the story goes, the mad trans­ves­tite sci­en­tist Dr. Frank N. Furter sets about cre­at­ing the per­fect man “with blond hair and a tan,” who is good for re­liev­ing his … “ten­sion.”

When the oh-so-in­no­cent young cou­ple Brad and Janet hap­pen upon the doc­tor’s abode, cer­tain sex­ual shenani­gans take place, may­hem en­sues, and it all ends up, like most the­atri­cal works, in a frenzy of chain­saws, aliens, Nazis and rock and roll.

There are lit­er­ally dozens of op­por­tu­ni­ties to join in the fun; although, at Strat­ford, it is a lit­tle more con­trolled with peo­ple planted in the au­di­ence to holler at ap­pro­pri­ate times.

There are clev­erly pack­aged par­tic­i­pa­tion bags avail­able in the lobby that in­clude a few es­sen­tial items ap­proved for use. Ahem.

Chameroy, an Ed­mon­ton na­tive, moved to Toronto upon land­ing a role in a Mirvish pro­duc­tion of Les Misérables. Also in the com­pany were Michael Burgess, in the lead, and

Chameroy’s fu­ture wife Chris­tine Donato.

“I’ve al­ways loved to per­form, “Chameroy says. “I didn’t re­ally choose act­ing, it chose me. I can’t re­mem­ber not want­ing to do it as a child.”

In his teens, he started singing and do­ing quite well in vo­cal com­pe­ti­tions, back be­fore there was Amer­i­can Idol or The Voice, so he was a nat­u­ral for mu­si­cal the­atre.

At present, Chameroy is per­haps best known around town for his hi­lar­i­ous turns as Plum­bum von Bo­tox, in the pop­u­lar Ross Petty hol­i­day pan­tomimes, and as Miss Trunch­bull is a re­cent hit Mirvish mu­si­cal pro­duc­tion of Matilda.

“I re­joice in these crazy parts. I don’t care what it is,” says Chameroy.

He’s spent many a sea­son at the Strat­ford Fes­ti­val — 12 and count­ing — and when the time came to have a look at op­tions for the cur­rent sea­son, he was par­tic­u­larly drawn to the Mu­sic

Man, an­other smash pro­duc­tion this sea­son, which was also ex­tended.

“I was like, ‘Hmm I think I should do Mu­sic Man. It would be a good fit for me, and I was quite ea­ger,” he says.

“And then they called and said do you want to au­di­tion for Rocky. I didn’t know what to think. It wasn’t re­ally on my radar at all.”

Chameroy was not for­mally in­doc­tri­nated into the Rocky

Hor­ror cult. Luck­ily, his wife talked him into it.

“She thought it would be a fun ex­pe­ri­ence for me and a chal­lenge,” he ex­plains. “So I went in un­der her guid­ance, her tute­lage and her cloth­ing, ba­si­cally, to au­di­tion.”

The an­themic rock score took some get­ting used to for Chameroy, who was used to a dif­fer­ent kind of mu­si­cal the­atre.

Nonethe­less, he seized the day and his “sweet trans­ves­tite” role with char­ac­ter­is­tic zeal and has been pleas­antly sur­prised by the show’s suc­cess.

“I did not an­tic­i­pate what was go­ing to hap­pen. It’s not your typ­i­cal Strat­ford fare,” Chameroy says. “The crazy wack­i­ness of

Rocky, with the au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion kind of ex­pe­ri­ence, I don’t think they’ve done any­thing like that be­fore.”

It helps that the pro­duc­tion is helmed by Donna Fe­ore, ac­claimed di­rec­tor and chore­og­ra­pher. In ad­di­tion, the cast in­cludes some young vo­cal­ists that are noth­ing short of stun­ning, in­clud­ing Robert Markus as Riff Raff and Kimberly-Ann Truong who ab­so­lutely sparkles as Columbia.

“There is not one per­son in the show that isn’t pulling it off vo­cally,” says Chameroy.

“Not to toot our own horns, but I don’t think any­one will be dis­ap­pointed.”

Dan Chameroy por­trays Dr. Frank N. Furter with his char­ac­ter­is­tic gusto, and not in­signif­i­cant mus­cles

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