Westside Theater offers shows to thrill and chill

Published 11:34 am Monday, October 27, 2014

Allison East, portraying Columbia, and Brian Sessums, portraying Eddie, sing Wednesday night along with other cast members during a dress rehearsal of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Strand Theatre. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Allison East, portraying Columbia, and Brian Sessums, portraying Eddie, sing Wednesday night along with other cast members during a dress rehearsal of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Strand Theatre. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

Eyebrows will undoubtedly raise for some when they hear that a local theater is performing a show involving transvestites, but for others the production of the musical that has a worldwide cult following means a fun-filled evening where audience members get to become as much a part of the show as the cast members.

Written by Richard O’Brien, the “Rocky Horror Show,” a spoof and tribute to the science fiction and horror B movies of the late 1940’s through the early 1970’s, has become an annual production for the Westside Theater Foundation. Local performances opened this past weekend with two showings of the musical, and two more shows are scheduled this week including a midnight showing on Halloween, said Jack Burns.

Burns, who is the founder of the foundation and is co-directing the musical, said this is the fifth year the group has offered the “Rocky Horror Show.”

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“We have terrific talent for the show,” said Burns. The show includes veteran performers and new faces allowing annual performances to have a “happy difference,” he said.

“The show is the same, but when all the people involved bring themselves to the roles of the character, something new happens,” he said, and added, “We are not trying to recreate the play or the movie. We are putting our stamp on it. This is our show,” he said.

The musical begins when movie theater usherette, Trixie, walking down the aisle of the cinema singing “Science Fiction/Double Feature,” a song that gives spectators a synopsis of the “film” they are about the see.

Trixie is played by local Stacie Schrader, who said she has been involved with all five of the Vicksburg productions of the “Rocky Horror Show.”

“I’ve done the show for four years, and the year I didn’t perform I helped with the directing,” said Schrader.

Absent from performing last year, Schrader said she decided she wanted to get back on stage.

“I missed it,” she said. “It’s so much fun, and the audience is what makes the play. When they are up and doing their lines and dancing, that is what makes it the best,” she said.

Typical of the antiquated horror flicks and following Schrader’s song, the audience is introduced to Brad and Janet, a straight-laced couple played by Alex Hill and Carolyn Gent, respectively, who, after becoming engaged, set out on a little drive to meet up with one of their former professors.

When the weather gets bad, the couple’s car breaks down, and guess what? They wind up knocking on a castle door, but holy cow. Unlike the typical cast of characters that slink around in the halls and corridors of scary shows, Brad and Janet are met by a motley crew and become thrust into singing and dancing with the group to the show’s signature dance number, the “Time Warp.”

Like Schrader, Brian Sessums says he’s been involved with the “Rocky Horror Show” since the foundation first started performing it in the Coral Room at the Vicksburg.

“It’s a fun thing to do,” he said.

“You get to meet new people, and it’s something to do in Vicksburg.”

Sessums credits his father for becoming involved with the show.

“It was Dad’s idea. He said, ‘Get involved with the chamber, or do a play.’” Sessums said, and since he claims he has a “goofy personality,” performing on stage was a better fit.

This year Sessums plays two roles, Dr. Scott and Eddie, who sing the rock and roll song “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul.”

This year, local performances of the “Rocky Horror Show” are being held at the Strand Theatre, 717 Clay St. Shows will resume at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and 11:55 Friday. Frida’s show is sold out.Tickets are $15. Prior to Friday night’s showing the 1960 American horror film “The Fall of the House of Usher” will be shown at 8 p.m. The film was listed with the United States National Film Registry in 2005, and features Vincent Price, Myrna Fahey, Mark Damon and Harry Ellerbe. Admission to the movie is $10, and tickets for the live performances and the movie are available at the theatre or at the Highway 61 Coffeehouse, 1101 Washington St.

For more information, call 601-301-3158.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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