Thursday, January 27, 2022

Ben Vereen Talks Fishnets, Stilettos & ‘Optimism’ of ‘Rocky Horror’ Musical

Ben Vereen in THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW: LET’S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN. ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Steve Wilkie/FOX

*Actor Ben Vereen says it was a wonderful opportunity to pay homage to the 70’s musical film “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

The Fox remake saw transgender actress Laverne Cox starring in the iconic role of Dr.Frank-N-Furter (originally played by Tim Curry), and singer Christina Milian as Magenta. The Thursday night premiere drew 5 million total viewers and a 1.7 rating, according to TVLine.

“First of all, I had never seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and so it was a wonderful opportunity to pay homage. This is not a remake. This is paying homage to the ones who originally did it because you can not remake The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” Vereen told EUR/Electronic Urban Report. “I finally saw the show, and you can not touch it. I had the honor of being on set with Tim Curry, and that was like a validation. You can not touch the original. This is a tribute to the original.”

READ RELATED STORY: Laverne Cox Responds to Her ‘Rocky Horror’ Reboot Critics

The original musical movie starred Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick as a couple who end up in ghoulish company when they take shelter during a storm. While it’s the resonating songs, wild characters and vivid costumes that truly define ‘Rocky Horror,’ Ben says the crew of director Kenny Ortega’s “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again,” impressed him the most.

“I was mostly impressed with the crew. You gotta give honor to the crew cause I watched these people make something out of nothing to allow us actors to bring you what we do. They’d be there 4-5 hours beforehand and through the vision that Kenny had, the crew would go about creating nothing something, and then we’d step into that something and bring you this performance. That’s what I was impressed with. We need to give them their props.”

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW: LET’S DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN: L-R: Annaleigh Ashford, Ivy Levan, Tim Curry, Reeve Carney, Christina Milian, Laverne Cox, Staz Nair, Victoria Justice, Ryan McCartan, Adam Lambert and Ben Vereen. ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Miranda Penn Turin/FOX

Now that he has experienced the wacky world of alien scientist Dr.Frank-N-Furter, Ben says he’s looking forward to attending his first midnight screening of the musical. The original film was largely critically panned on initial release, but it soon became known as a midnight movie when audiences began participating with the film at the Waverly Theater in New York City in 1976. Fans would dress up as their favorite ‘Rocky Horror’ character and return to the cinemas frequently to sing along and talk back to the screen. This spawned similar performance groups across the United States. Audience participation has become a staple of the movie, and it’s an element that director Kenny Ortega included in the Fox remake.

“It is brilliant what [Kenny] did, [to] actually have the audience participating in the production. I think he did a brilliant job. It was a great opportunity to include the audience. So when you see it in a midnight production, those who do not know, or have never been, they know now what they can do,” Ben says.

Vereen says the most challenging aspect about playing fishnet wearing and wheelchair bound Dr. Everett Scott was learning how to dance and perform in an electric wheelchair.

“I have a friend who is in a wheelchair and several years ago she taught me how to dance in a wheelchair. This time I had to dance in an electric wheelchair, and that was quite a challenge cause an electric chair has its own mind.”

“My God, I’m in fishnets and stilettos,” he says laughing. “I admire you women. I can not walk in stilettos to save my life.”

L-R: Laverne Cox and Ben Vereen in THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Steve Wilkie/FOX

The legendary performer, whose career on both the stage and screen spans nearly four decades, believes that it is “the optimism” of the original movie that has allowed it to remain a global cultural phenomenon.

“It’s a dream of being more than you are,” Ben says. “It’s being in that outer body experience. Going to that planet where you can do the Time Warp again, again and again.”

The original ‘Rocky Horror’ was released on DVD in 2000 for the film’s 25th anniversary. A 35th Anniversary edition Blu-ray was released in the US in 2010. The soundtrack was released in 1975 by Ode Records and peaked at #49 on the Billboard 200 in 1978. The album is described as the “definitive version of the [Rocky Horror] score.”

One of the more popular songs from the movie is “Don’t Dream It, Be It,” so naturally we asked Mr. Vereen to explain what this phrase means to him.

“It means, once you dream the dream, be the dream. We have a tendency to dream and just say it was a dream, but what about becoming the dream. And when you become the dream, then you have affirmative on your life to be positive. Be the wonderfulness of your dreams.”

The award-winning actor, dancer, and singer has won numerous awards including two Tony Awards, three Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards. Vereen explained the one thing he knows now that he wish he knew when he first started out as an actor.

“Stillness is everything,” he says.

“From nothing comes everything. What I have learned is one thing is patience. We used to sing a song at church, and the words are like this: There’s something within me I can not explain. There’s something within me that hold up the reins. All I can say is that there’s something within. And that something within I’ve come to learn in my life, and allow it to propel me. My want is that others join in that light.”

If you missed the Thursday night premiere of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again,” you can watch the full show here.


Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is an entertainment reporter with over 15 years of experience working in the film industry in areas including production and post-production, marketing, distribution, and acquisitions. She has worked for legendary film producer Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino's production team at Miramax, the late Larry Flynt, MTV/ VH1, Hallmark Channel, Paramount, Jim Henson Co., Parade Magazine, and various LA-based companies representing above-the-line talent.



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