An Insider’s Guide to the Rocky Horror Shadow Cast Experience at the Capitol Theatre

Get ready, Wheeling. Gold shorts and feather boas are coming your way. On October 8, THE “Rocky Horror Picture Show” will be playing at The Capitol Theatre in celebration of the 48th anniversary of the cult classic film. With a special guest, Patrica Quinn – the original Magenta!

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is the story of Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Jannet (Susan Sarandon) who find themself with a flat tire in front of an imposing, gothic castle. Inside is a true cast of characters; Riff Raff (Richard O’Brien, who wrote the script), Columbia (Nell Cambell), Magenta (Patricia Quinn) and a whole slew of Traslvainian party guests. They are all here at the behest of the host, Dr. Frank-N-Furter (a star-making turn by Tim Curry). That’s about all I talk about without giving too much away, or confusing the heck out of you. Suffice to say, campy chaos ensues.

I am a longtime fan of Rocky Horror and attended my first shadow cast performance in Chicago in 2016. If you don’t know what a shadow cast is, let me explain. They play the movie and then there are actors, onstage, in front of the screen, who act in tandem with and lip-sync the movie’s actors. That may sound a little strange, but it doesn’t stop there.

Shadow Cast of Rocky Horror, Chicago 2016, photo courtesy of Trevor Slavin.

Perhaps it’s best to start from the beginning…

“The Rocky Horror Show” started its long life (it is, in fact, the longest continually running movie of all time) in 1973 as a musical on a small stage above London’s Royal Court Theatre. It was a smash, transferring to the West End and then to Los Angeles. It was a clear decision to cash in on the phenomenon and make it into “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” The film version came out in 1975. 

Sadly, the movie was a flop. It never got a wide release and was all but packed away into the 20th Century Fox archives, never to see the light of day again. That was until April Fools Day in 1976 when it was shown at midnight at the Waverly Theatre in New York City. The audience ate it up (much like Frank-N-Furter does Eddie…IYKYK) and the rest is history.

Famed movie reviewer, Roger Ebert, seemed to have some mystical vision of the future when he said “’The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ would be more fun, I suspect, if it weren’t a picture show. It belongs on a stage, with the performers and audience joining in a collective send-up.”

Partake in a collective send-up, they did. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” was the dawn of a new kind of movie, where the audience is as much a part of the experience as the actors. It may seem a little strange if you don’t know about it, but the thing is, that’s part of the fun! It’s the “cult” of a cult film, the revelry only insiders know.

There is no discussion of “Rocky Horror Picture Show’s” fans without discussing the LGBTQ community. The very nature of the story of “Rocky Horror” plays in the gray of gender and sexuality. By the end of the fifth song, our straight-laced leads, Brad and Jannet, have literally shed their clothes. This marks the beginning of the discarding of the ‘normalcy’ they were locked into. As the characters discover and embrace their fluid sexuality and gender, it is absolutely no wonder why queer audiences latched onto the movie. The environment of a midnight showing encourages experimentation with makeup and costumes, to blur the lines of gender expression. 

David Nehls (left) as Riff Raff and William E. Lester (right) as Frank N. Furter during the 1996 European tour of The Rocky Horror Show.

Over the years, “Rocky Horror” has grown into a global phenomenon. Musical productions have toured every continent, save Antarctica. Live casts sell out every year. And now, it’s coming to Wheeling, and bringing one of its original stars with it!

I got the absolute privilege to chat with Patrica Quinn ahead of her visit to Wheeling. She’s just kicked off the 48th Anniversary tour in Seattle. She told me about her visit briefly, “The other day in Seattle one girl was saying ‘my grandmother loves this’, so you go, girl!”

She told me she has had 8-year-old Magenta’s come up to her, “and their mothers used to be me! It’s very generational.”

From her hotel room in Los Angeles, she talked to me about what it’s been like having “Rocky Horror” as a part of her life. “’Rocky Horror‘ has, in a way, changed my life, in that I’ve had an extraordinarily wonderful time out of it. It’s all very glamorous and marvelous, the journey has been extraordinary.”

Just to touch on the extraordinary things, Patrica presented “Rocky Horror” at the Royal Albert Hall in London, where she got to watch from the Queen’s box, “just me, onstage, with the film, that was in front of 3,000 people.” She continued “I’m beyond overwhelmed actually. I’m in shock. I’ve met a million fans, I’ve done a million comic cons. I’ve been sent by 20th Century Fox when the DVD came out, I was sent all over Europe, I was sent to Australia to promote all of it.”

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Patrica Quinn, Magenta, at a convention, courtesy of Benweblight.

As we are celebrating 48 years of the film, Patricia “actually just celebrated 50 years of ‘Rocky’ in London, because the stage show began in ‘73.” She watched the film, with a shadow cast, and was impressed with the show. “It was unbelievable that the callbacks to the stage were like, almost part of the script. They didn’t interfere. They weren’t like, one here, one there, they did it in unison. I was amazed by that. It was like a chorus.”

That must have been very different than Patrica’s own return to “Rocky Horror” onstage. “I actually went back to the stage and did it 21 years after, and that was after people had learned to shout back to it from the film. Being on the stage, and people shouting back at you, was a bit of a pain in the ass. When we first did it, nobody talked to us on the stage.”

One last thing, from the interview, just because I find it so utterly cool. I asked Patrica about her fabulous style, and if she had any influence on Magenta’s ‘look’ She very quickly corrected me and told me a story she had never told anyone before: 

 “No, I’ve always gone with the designer of a show, I never, ever thought of interfering. Sue Blane, who designed our costumes, is one of the most astonishing designers ever. I mean, quite brilliant. She had that corset done especially for Tim Curry. It was all her who created the whole thing. What was astonishing was that the budget for our film was so low, right? It was dreadful. And Sue Blane got a piece of chiffon for Magenta’s evening dinner dress. And she could only afford that one piece of chiffon and she was terrified to cut it. She wanted to cut it on the cross, so it would drape just beautifully, which it did. Anyway, she was working with another boy designer, and he was going to cut it, because he was good with the cutting of that. And she was so terrified she just looked out of the window while he did it, in case he made a mistake.”

And so, after laughing with her and hearing some downright marvelous stories, she left me with the best parting words (complete with the accent); “I come from Transylvania, darling!”

Oh, and perhaps, for the uninitiated, I should explain a little of what is to be expected at the shadow-cast “Rocky Horror” production this week at the Capitol Theatre. But only a little so I don’t give away all the secrets.

There will be costumes, oh, there will be costumes. In fact, there will be a costume contest! There will be calls and responses to the dialogue (most of it will be fitting with the film’s R rating). Some personal favorites are “Sing it, a**hole, it’s a musical!” and “Yay, little morals!”

There will also be dancing. If you don’t already know it, I recommend learning the Time Warp. It’s easy, just a jump to the left, and then a step to the right, put your hands on your hips, and bring your knees in tight. Don’t forget the pelvic thrusts (that really drive you insane). There is also, likely, going to be a virgin ceremony. I won’t go into that too far, just to keep a couple of surprises. Just know that, if it’s your first shadow cast, it’s tradition to mark your forehead with a red lipstick “V”.

  • My first Rocky Horror Picture Show outfit with the, smudged, infamous lipstick “V”.

So, whether you have had your costume planned for months, or have never experienced this kind of camp-tastic treat, suffice to say attendance at The Capitol Theatre’s “Rocky Horror Picture Show” will be the hot ticket. Speaking of tickets, they can be purchased through The Capitol Theatre’s website. Ticket start at $29.75. Additionally, you can purchase a special V.I.P. & meet-and-greet add-on with Patrica Quinn (which, having talked to her, is so worth it, she is just wonderfully fabulous). The show will begin at 7 p.m., with doors opening at 6 p.m. You can learn more and get your tickets at See you there!

• Makayla Carney, a Wheeling native, is the 2023-2024 AmeriCorps member for Wheeling Heritage, where she will get to write all about the history and culture of her hometown. She has a B.F.A. in Film and Television from DePaul University in Chicago. She adores all kinds of art, a lavender latte, and the occasional performance on the Towngate Theatre stage.


Ebert, Roger. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show Movie Review (1975) | Roger Ebert.” Movie Reviews and Ratings by Film Critic Roger Ebert | Roger Ebert,

Ivan-Zadeh, Larushka. “The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The Film That’s Saved Lives – BBC Culture.” BBC – Homepage, BBC, 19 June 2020,

O’Brien, Richard, and Jim Sharman. The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Directed by Jim Sharman, 1975.

Piro, Sal, et al. Rocky Horror Picture Show: Audience Part-Tic-i-Pation Guide. Binary Publications, 2012.

“TRHPS Official Fan Site: History: How It Began.” The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The Official Fan Site!, Accessed 26 Sept. 2023.