It was at least a decade in the making, but Gail Berman’s vision of The Rocky Horror Picture Show is finally here. The campy film came out in 1975, two years after a stage production called The Rocky Horror Show arrived in London.
Berman says the far-out tale of Frank-N-Furter, Riff Raff, Rocky Horror and the rest is relevant as ever.
“It really speaks to anyone who ever had a moment where they feel like they were outsiders,” she told B&C. “Where they didn’t quite fit in, and were trying to find themselves.”
While holding auditions for the show, which airs on Fox Thursday at 8 p.m., Berman said she was struck by how many performers spoke from the heart about what RockyHorror, the quintessential B movie, meant to them. “It’s a very, very rare piece of art that allows people to have that kind of feelings for it,” she says.
Berman says her fight to bring Rocky Horror to the small screen started during her run as Fox entertainment president. It almost saw the light of day at MTV in 2008 but was shelved once again.
Work on the current iteration, which was rehearsed and recorded in Toronto and sports the subtitle “Let’s Do the Time Warp Again,” began around two years ago. Berman says getting Laverne Cox on board—she plays the cross-dressing scientist Frank-N-Furter—was key. “Laverne gave this a reason for being,” she says.
The Fox production also retains a number of key figures from its original film, including Lou Adler, who owns the film’s rights, and Tim Curry, the original Frank-N-Furter. Kenny Ortega (High School Musical) directs. “It’s incredibly fun,” says Berman. “The music is fantastic and the cast is exuberant.”
It’s been mostly diminishing returns for broadcast networks’ stage productions. NBC’s The Sound of Music drew 18 million in December 2013, while Peter Pan a year later did half of that. The Wiz Live! rebounded last December to 11.5 million, and NBC gives it another go with Hairspray Live! Dec. 7.
Fox’s Grease: Live production in January drew over 12 million viewers. ABC is at work on a three-hour production of Dirty Dancing.
Ratings for Fox's Rocky have been mixed. Berman admits to some serious nerves about how Fox’s Rocky Horror will be received by viewers—both those who’ve loved it for four decades and may not want to see their cult classic on broadcast TV and those discovering it for the first time. Would she take on another full-scale musical production?
“In a minute,” Berman says. “I’ve got a few on the runway, though they’re not teed up yet. But I’m very interested in this.”
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