The Rocky Horror Show at York Little Theatre
York Little Theatre presents a steampunk production of "The Rocky Horror Show" Oct. 18, 19, 25 and 26. (York Little Theatre photo)

Lee Howard has more experience with the "Rocky Horror" phenomenon than most. The story of a young couple stumbling into a mad scientist's lair marked the beginning of a new experiment for him as well.

"My wife and I actually met the first time we were in the cast," he says, recounting their experience about eight years ago at York Little Theatre. "We started dating shortly thereafter and ended up getting married later that year."

No surprise, then, that "there's a deep love for 'The Rocky Horror Show' in our family," he says.

Howard is directing the annual York Little Theatre production solo this year after a wealth of practice, including co-directing two years ago with his wife and three turns on stage (twice as Riff Raff, the creepy hunchbacked butler, and once as Rocky, the ideal specimen of male beauty).

"I'm a big fan of the original stage show and the movie," he says, describing himself as a purist.

Steampunk: When it comes to "Rocky Horror," however, he won't let his love for the pure object get in the way of his vision for refreshing the show. This year's production updates the cult classic with a punk rock musical sound and a steampunk visual style.

"When I first said we should do steampunk, everybody looked at me like I was crazy," he says. "You really have to have people who are creative; you can't just go buy steampunk stuff."

Steampunk melds the fashion of the Victorian era with wearable technology heavy on the mechanical over the digital. Its unique nature is part of its charm, so re-imagining "Rocky Horror" in the style meant a heavy workload for the cast and crew.

"All of the costumes are unique to the show, created for it," with the exception of a single corset, Howard says. "Almost all of our props are real antiques." The combination "gives it kind of an authentic feel."

Punk rock: The stage show also makes use of a four-piece band this year under the debut direction of Mike McGuinness.

"He's done a really good job adapting (the score) so the tenor sax is gone and there's more guitar solos. The beat is a driving beat," Howard says. "It's almost like a rock concert with all of your favorite characters."

Fans who've been to a "Rocky Horror" show before know audience participation is part of the fun. York Little Theatre will be selling goodie bags with everything needed to join in; outside props won't be allowed for safety reasons. The staff scours the theater with a leaf blower after each show to clear out the newspaper, confetti, toilet paper and other items.

"The production team really came together to pull this off," Howard says. "Steampunk theme is not easy to do, but with a little bit of vision and some creative people, it really brought it to life. It's going to be so much fun."

-- Reach Mel Barber at mbarber@yorkdispatch.com.

See the show

"The Rocky Horror Show" opens Friday at York Little Theatre, 27 S. Belmont St., Spring Garden Township. Performances begin at 9 p.m. Friday and Oct. 25 and at 9 p.m. and midnight Saturday and Oct. 26.

Tickets are $25. Goodie bags are available for an additional fee.

For more information, call (717) 854-5715 or visit www.ylt.org.