Fox builds another musical for TV to create ‘Rocky Horror’

Victoria Justice and Ryan McCartan play Janet and Brad.
Victoria Justice and Ryan McCartan play Janet and Brad. Steve Wilkie/FOX

If you feel like time is fleeting and madness has taken its toll, then you are ready to do the “Time Warp” again. Fox will help fill your dance card as the network wants viewers to make a jump to the left or make a step to the right for a presentation of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again.”

This is the latest in the new trend of the networks staging musicals for the TV audience. Fox previously presented “Grease: Live,” and ABC has announced plans to present a musical but has not released a title. NBC has been the most active, having produced “Peter Pan,” “The Sound of Music” and “The Wiz.” It has “Hairspray” scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 7.

Unlike the previous musicals, “Rocky Horror” will not air live. David Madden, Fox president of entertainment, explains the decision was made so that it feels like a movie experience. The company plans to look at more musicals, including live presentations.

As for “Rocky Horror,” the Fox version features Victoria Justice, Ryan McCartan, Laverne Cox, Adam Lambert, Tim Curry, Reeve Carney, Christina Milian, Ben Vereen, Annaleigh Ashford, Staz Nair and Ivy Levan. Curry is the only member of the 1975 feature film in the new cast. He goes from playing Dr. Frank-N-Furter to the role of The Criminologist.

“I actually offered myself as Dr. Scott because I was already in a wheelchair,” Curry says. “They thought the narrator was a better fit, and I enjoyed it a lot. Four years ago, Curry suffered a stroke that left him in a wheelchair.

Although he has a long résumé, “Rocky Horror” is the production most associated with Curry. As for whether playing a sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania, has helped or hampered his career, Curry says, “There’s really not a lot I can do about it, really.”

Having Cox take on the role of Frank-N-Furter is the answer to a lifelong dream. Director/choreography Kenny Ortega didn’t cast Cox to have a transwoman playing the role, but because Cox turned in the best audition.

“She’s a force. Five-octave range. A degree in dance from a major university. Acting her heart out in New York and studying for over 15 years. Walking in and bringing something into the room that made us all realize there was no B plan, that if we could land this person in this role, that she had so much to give to it, a life experience, an incredible depth of talent, an enthusiasm, and a respect, an incredible respect for this film, all that has mattered,” Ortega says. “Tim is not a transvestite, nor is Laverne. They’re both incredible, iconic actors that have accomplished a tremendous amount beyond these roles in their careers. So that’s really what we were looking for. ”

Cox takes over a role that made Curry legendary. His work in the original stage productions and feature film versions of “Rocky Horror” was a key reason the movie is a cult favorite. Ortega wants to make sure loyal fans are not not turned off by the new version, while still giving the television musical some originality.

“When we first embarked on developing this reimagining of ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show,’ the very first thing that was laid out was that we wanted to celebrate the fans with this new departure and also that we wanted to bring in a cast that didn’t have to fill in anyone else’s shoes but just to wear their own proudly,” Ortega says. “The celebration of the fandom, the 41 years, the midnight screenings, the adoration, was just really important that we had that aspect that was connected as a character to this new piece.”

It’s up to newcomer McCartan and Justice to help bridge both worlds as Brad and Janet.

McCartan is best known as Diggie on Disney Channel’s “Liv & Maddie” and also starred in the films “Summer Forever” and “The Cabinet of Souls.” Justice starred in the MTV series “Eye Candy” and Nickelodeon series “Victorious.”

Justice saw “Rocky Horror” for the first time when she was in the fifth grade and went to her initial midnight showing when she was 15.

“I just remember, from the first time I saw it, I’d never seen anything like it before in my life. And I loved the music and I loved the campiness and just the color that the characters had and that the whole story had. It really is so unique,” Justice says. “And so when I went to my first midnight showing, I remember wearing, like, fishnets and I had a red feather boa and red lipstick and I totally got so into it. It’s kind of just captivated me ever since then. I’ve been a fan for a long time.”

Rick Bentley: 559-441-6355, @RickBentley1

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again

  • 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, FOX (Channel 26.1)