By George Basler

The Collins English Dictionary defines “camp” as U.S. slang for “banality, mediocrity, artifice, ostentation, etc. so extreme as to amuse or have a perversely sophisticated appeal.”

And that’s pretty much what’s on display in The Rocky Horror Show, which opened Sept. 30 and will run weekends through Oct. 16 at the Ti-Ahwaga Performing Arts Center in Owego. The musical glories in its over-the-top parody of schlock-horror. And the spirited and sassy cast works hard to capture this wacky, demented attitude.

The Rocky Horror Show has become a cult favorite since its 1973 London debut, in large part because of the popularity of the 1975 film The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Judged solely as musical theater, though, the musical is a very mixed bag. On the plus side are some catchy songs and energetic dance numbers (well done by the Ti-Ahwaga cast). On the negative side is a plot that’s a muddled mess and humor that is too often sophomoric rather than clever.

This criticism is almost beside the point, however. Devotees of the show seem willing to overlook its many flaws to bathe in its outrageousness and assault of social mores. That was certainly the case at one performance last weekend when some audience members enthusiastically hooted and hollered after every song.

The musical is the work of Richard O’Brien, who wrote the book, music and lyrics one winter during his down time as an actor. The Englishman’s goal was to combine the corny dialogue and unintended humor of B horror movies with rock ‘n’ roll of the 1950s and early 1960s. The show is certainly bold, featuring themes of bi-sexuality, transvestism and overcoming inhibitions.

The plot focuses on Brad and Janet, two uptight sweethearts who seek refuge in a spooky mansion after their car has a flat tire on a stormy night. They are greeted by a set of bizarre characters headed by Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a mad scientist who, like Dr. Frankenstein, is working on his “creation” — in this case, a muscle-bound beach boy.

Other characters include a rock ‘n’ roll biker turned zombie, a weird handyman/ butler, a wheelchair-bound scientist and a bunch of phantoms who are revealed to be space aliens with ray guns. We’re talking seriously bizzarro.

As the play progresses, Brad and Janet loosen up, to say the least, and lose their squeaky-clean image. While the premise is promising, O’Brien’s writing is so convoluted that the show becomes indecipherable at times.

I can hear the outraged comments of Rocky Horror enthusiasts now. “Loosen up, Jack,” they might say, arguing that the messy plot is one of the show’s selling points. I can respect that reaction. And to be fair, there are moments when Rocky becomes delightfully alive, notably during the ensemble’s high-energy numbers.

The Ti-Ahwaga cast does a commendable job in providing these moments of fun. Ryan Canavan has directed with great verve, and choreographer Andrew Bailey has skillfully staged up-tempo dance numbers that are joyful and worthy of applause. This is readily apparent in “The Time Warp.” The number has become the best known from the show, and this cast delivers.

As Frank-N-Furter, Howard Scot Saggiomo is flamboyant and confident. He gives a bravura performance totally in keeping with the spirit of the character. As his “creation,” Marquis Lown sings well, flexes his muscles and does a skillful cartwheel that brings down the house.

Eleri Rodrigues is sweet as the befuddled Janet, and Isaac Weber is genuinely funny as the nerdy Brad. He also has a tender ballad (yes, there is a tender ballad in the show) and sings it well.

Melissa Neufer makes the most of her brassy song as Eddie, the biker turned zombie. Megan Longo gives a solid performance in the dual role of Magenta, the castle’s maid, and an usherette whose song opens and closes the show. Deirdre Nolis, Addison Turner and Amanda Blake are suitably over the top in their roles as the creepy butler, paralyzed scientist and Eddie’s love interest, respectively. The ensemble brims with spirit.

Lastly, Shane Smith is a real standout as the narrator of the bizzarro goings-on. He is spot-on as the snotty, sarcastic character, and his dance moves are unique and delightfully silly.

Members of Rocky Horror’s devoted cult will certainly be pleased with the production. And those who have a high tolerance for spoofs should have fun, too.

IF YOU GO: Ti-Ahwaga Community Players will present The Rocky Horror Show weekends through Oct. 16. Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. at the Ti-Ahwaga Performing Arts Center, 42 Delphine St., Owego. Tickets at $25 and $30 may be purchased at or by calling the box office at 607-687-2130.

Due to the content of the production, including, but not limited to, sexual themes and profanity, any patrons 17 and younger are recommended to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Audience discretion is advised.