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Rocky Redemption 

Second time's the charm for cult fave

We could have given you the scoop on The Rocky Horror Show in last week's Loaf. But we forbore publishing our opening night assessment for a couple of reasons. Two more weeks remained before the new innerVoices production would be truly in season for Halloween. More important, there was insufficient space to adequately trash the disaster.

The catastrophe started a full 23 minutes late, finally limping across the finish line at 10:28pm. Along the way, video projections misfired, an anemic sound system left most of the performers unintelligible, and what was audible was often underpowered or unpleasantly off-key.

My phone rang shortly after the Loaf hit the streets without telling the horror story of Rocky. It was innerVoices co-founder Carver Johns, who directs and stars as Frank N. Furter, the Transylvanian transvestite. We were told that the technical screw-ups had been conquered, and we were invited back.

We were treated to a much more technically polished performance last Friday. Better still, we drew a much more cultish audience. Two or three guys sitting near us knew most of the lines that audiences traditionally hurl at performers during midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Scattered among the house were additional groupies who came dressed as their favorite characters. Life is incomplete until you've seen a spindly 50-year-old guy masquerading as the ingenue Janet in her undies.

Onstage, the centerpiece is still the work of Joseph Baez in the dual roles of our crooning narrator and Furter's humpbacked servant Riff Raff. Hooded to hide his striated Transylvanian skull, Baez captures our host's gooey nostalgia to perfection. That's a mere foretaste to the campy creepiness of the Riff, delivered with heavy-metal vocal bravura.

Johns, more at home in the latter-day westerns of Sam Shepard, proves to be curiously compelling as Frank. Clomping around in platform heels with fishnets, rouge and garters, the mountainous Johns is a sight to behold as he pursues Janet and Rocky around the pews of Central Avenue Playhouse. So is Wendy Belt Edwards, an absolutely luscious Janet. While I felt moderately guilty ogling Edwards' pulchritude, listening to her vocal on "Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me" was cruel and unusual punishment.

Derek Gamba's geekiness as Janet's fiance Brad is much more winsome now that it's amplified to more audible levels, and he doesn't sing as badly as Edwards. Or as badly as Brian Ragon, the surprisingly diminutive Rocky. Unless you're silly enough to seek topnotch vocals, you'll find the cameos adequately acted by Jina Barragan as Columbia, Serena Ruden Johns as Magenta, and Patrick Duke as the Criminologist. But the Nazi Doctor and Meatloaf rocker roles could stand some beefing up.

You move from the big warehouse at the Clement Avenue venue into the more intimate studio space for the Act 3 floorshow. I turned down my opportunity to do "The Time Warp" with the cast onstage a little after 10pm, nearly a half hour sooner than I declined to make a fool of myself the previous week before exiting.

Sets, costumes and props all achieve a charming cheesiness, but Serena Johns's makeup artistry adds a special kick. The music sounded better last Friday, but it's still canned and not live, a transgression that brands the iV production as a guerrilla Rocky.

If you aim to howl and mingle -- and possibly get soaked -- among diehard Rocky Horror crazies, innerVoices has added special midnight shows for the next two Fridays and Saturdays. Please dress appropriately.The 10th anniversary has come and gone uptown at the NC Blumenthal Performing Arts Center without the installation of an organ console to complete the Belk Theater stage. No such problem down on Highway 51 at the gaudy miracle in mauve, Calvary Church. Charlotte Philharmonic adjourned to the cavernous sanctuary for last Saturday night's Maestro and His Mrs. concert, featuring a rare live performance of Saint-Saens' famed Organ Symphony.According to maestro Albert Moehring, the latest rankings place the Calvary organ as the ninth largest musical instrument on the planet. So the full force of the fabled fourth movement entrance, with Mrs. Patricia Moehring at the console, was more than just thrilling. It was literally earthshaking.

Maestro did a wonderful job with his forces, particularly in the uptempo and military sections. But I was fortunate to have moved up from the 10th row to the fifth after the preceding Rimsky-Korsakov morsel. Further back at Calvary, sound cometh forth as through a tin can darkly.

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  • On Saturday, Oct. 21, hundreds gathered at Camp North End on Statesville Avenue for Charlotte's first black alternative music festival. We captured some of the bands in action on stage, but mostly we surveyed the grounds as fans, families, vendors and more lounged around the sprawling, colorful Camp North End site. It was a great day of music, food, fun, and sweet, autumn sunshine. (Photos by Mark Kemp)
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