Even if you’ve seen the gleefully raunchy “Rocky Horror Show,” you have never seen the “Rocky” that brings its A-game to B movies the next two weekends in The Speakeasy, 1818 3rd Ave., Rock Island.

Audience anticipation has been building steadily, with some shows already sold out. The performances remaining with availability are 11 p.m. shows on Oct. 20, 21, 28 and 29. The doors open at 10, and you must be 21 or older to attend these performances.

Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 the day of the show, available by calling 309-783-7733, ext. 2 (online reservations not currently available).

Tristan Tapscott, this version’s director, is involved in his 13th “Rocky” production, starting with 2005 when he was a student at Western Illinois University. This is fourth time directing. He’s played every male role except for Rocky, Eddie and Dr. Scott.

Adam Cerny, who is the title character this time, has played Magenta several years ago.

“It’s a crazy little show,” Tapscott said this week. “The cool thing about this show, it is a one-of-a-kind experience. Even though I’ve done it so many times by now, it’s a different experience every single time.”

Tristan Tapscott as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in a former District Theatre production in October 2015.

“Especially this year, you’ve never seen it like this,” he said.

Of Tapscott’s 13 “Rocky” shows, this is his fourth in The Speakeasy — he has played Dr. Frank-N-Furter twice and has directed it twice (including last year).

From COVID to today

In October 2020, “Rocky Horror” was tied to the Speakeasy stage (actors didn’t interact with the audiences), and some performances were fully masked. That first year of COVID, they had to perform to half capacity, masked audiences.

Tapscott and his new wife Savannah Bay Strandin, who were married Oct. 10, 2022.

“It was chaos; I mean, we did our best,” Tapscott said. “This show thrives when you can take it out into the space and give the energy to the audience. When it’s confined to the stage, it’s less of an experience.”

“The crowds are a lot more willing to let their freak flags fly, when there’s more people,” said Circa Bootlegger Nick Munson, who now plays Brad.

“The audience is so much part of the show, so if that character is missing, there’s something missing in the energy level,” Tapscott said.

The audience likes to join in on the iconic “Time Warp” dance.

“It’s a different experience every single night,” Tapscott said. “They throw things at everybody.”

Playing cards and toilet people are among props that people have the most fun with, Munson said. People put newspaper over their head during the storm scene. Prop bags are available for $4.

“There are some diehards who know every single moment, but there are other people who come to it for the first time not knowing what to expect,” Tapscott said. “That’s always kind of exciting.”

“Those are my favorite audience members — like, ‘Oh my gosh, what is happening?'” Strandin said.

“They’re wide-eyed, jaw on the ground — ‘What did you bring me to?'” Munson said.

From stage to screen to stage

The original London production of The Rocky Horror Show premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in June 1973 and won the 1973 Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Musical. Later transferring to several other locations in London, the show ran for a total of 2,960 performances.

Savannah Bay Strandin, Chase Austin, and Nicholas Munson in the new “Rocky Horror.”

On March 10, 1975, The Rocky Horror Show opened on Broadway at the Belasco Theatre, starring Tim Curry as Frank and featuring Meat Loaf and “Ritz” O’Brien.

“There’s a great recording that he’s on, called the Roxy recording, made at The Roxy in L.A.,” Tapscott said of Curry. “It’s different than his film portrayal. It has this edge and rock feel, it’s so cool.”

A humorous tribute to the science fiction and B horror films of the 1930s to the early 1960s, the musical tells the story of a newly engaged couple getting caught in a storm and coming to the home of a mad transvestite scientist, Frank-N-Furter, unveiling his new creation, a sort of Frankenstein-style monster in the form of an artificially made, fully grown, physically perfect muscle man named Rocky, complete with blond hair and a tan.

The show was adapted into the 1975 film “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” starring O’Brien as Riff Raff, Susan Sarandon as Janet, Barry Bostwick as Brad and Curry also reprising his role.

Munson hasn’t watched the movie in so long, and doesn’t want to duplicate that.

“There’s an energy level that’s different. The film is very subtle in a lot of ways, and you can’t do that here,” Tapscott said.

The full cast of the new “Rocky Horror,” which opens Friday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.

“Sometimes it’s different every night, with different audience callbacks,” Munson said. Actors go into the audience throughout the show.

“We’ve lit the aisle through to the bar,” Tapscott said of the newly renovated, 125-seat Speakeasy space. “It’s a totally immersive experience.” Cameron Strandin of Rockford, younger brother of Savannah Bay Strandin (who plays Janet), is the lighting designer.

“We have a lot more to play with because of what Cameron has done. We’re e lighting the entire space in various ways, which we haven’t done in previous years,” Tapscott said.

“When they did the renovation, they didn’t really touch the tech aspect of it,” he said. “We brought Cameron in and he’s really made something out of it. I’m not kidding — this is the best version of the show that’s been done at The Speakeasy.”

In the QC for 13 straight years

In 2009, when Tapscott brought “Rocky Horror” to his old Harrison Hilltop Theatre in Davenport, “Rocky” had never been done live in the Quad Cities. The movie had been showed often locally over the years.

It’s been done live in the QC for the past 13 years. “It’s probably like the longest-running show in the Quad Cities,” Tapscott said. “It’s that one constant.”

Munson last year was Eddie/Dr. Scott, and this is his sixth time on stage (he’s also been Riff-Raff). Tapscott directed last year, and Strandin (his new wife) is in her second time as Janet here (after 2020).

Kira Lynn and Bradley Robert Jensen in the new production.

In her hometown of Rockford, she was never on stage in “Rocky Horror,” but was involved as selling concessions or tickets at a couple theaters.

Munson started with Circa in 2012 as deck manager and has been a Bootlegger since 2013.

“It’s a whole ‘nother world over here,” he said of the Speakeasy. “The let-your-hair-down feeling is different than being a Bootlegger. It’s let it all hang out.”

Tapscott and Strandin have juggled “Rocky” rehearsals alongside planning their Oct. 10 wedding, and performances of the current mainstage show, “Clue,” because he is director and in charge of the schedule.

Tapscott and Strandin were married Oct. 10 in Lake Geneva, Wis.

“Because I played the role a couple years ago, obviously blocking would be different, the cast was different, but the lines are the same, so I was feeling pretty comfy with those,” she said. “I didn’t feel terribly stressed.”

“Rocky” started learning music in early September; had a two-week break while “Disaster” closed and “Clue” opened, and then they resumed rehearsals at Speakeasy (which have just been two or three nights a week).

The best cast yet

“This cast, I’m not kidding you — I’ve done 13 years of this thing — and it’s the best cast I’ve worked with,” Tapscott said. “Everyone just gets it. Part of the issue is, every now and then you have someone in the cast who just doesn’t get it and just the levels of confidence are different.

“This cast is bringing it, and they are all hilarious,” he said. “All of them are bringing it, which makes it really fun for us, to go that extra mile in the show, because we’re not waiting for someone to catch up.”

Taylor Lynn, left, Kira Rangel and Kira Lynn in the new Speakeasy show.

Munson said Brad is a part he thought he’d never get to play.

“I’m not the archetype that normally plays this character, so it’s a lot of fun for me,” he said. “It’s something I never thought of.”

Strandin and Munson (who also have been close through Circa shows) love playing opposite each other.

She also enjoys letting her hair down in the blonde wig of Janet, compared to more traditional Circa roles.

“Janet is one of my favorite roles; she always has been,” Strandin said. “Before I played her, I said, someday, I need to play Janet Weiss. It’s a role I think I could play forever. I’ve never gotten tired of her. I think it would be fun to explore some of the other roles in the show. I’d love to play Columbia someday. Now, my heart belongs to Janet.”

“I’ve done the show so many times before, but this is part of the show I’ve never done before,” Munson said.

“Everyone’s done the show, so they understand what needs to happen,” Tapscott said. “Honestly, it brings out a different element to it.”

A perfect fit

It was daring for Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse — which has mainly presented family-friendly fare since opening 1977 — to bring “Rocky” to The Speakeasy in the first place, Tapscott (a veteran Circa actor) said. The Speakeasy also regularly hosts drag shows and burlesque.

The Speakeasy, 1818 3rd Ave., Rock Island, reopened earlier this month after a total five-month renovation.

“I remember the first time I played Frank here, and there were some old ladies who found out I was in it, and said ‘We love him; we’ll come see it’,” he recalled. Munson said patrons have to be sure to understand what they’re seeing before buying tickets.

“I think a lot of people enjoy it, but I also think the clientele is do different,” Tapscott said of Speakeasy patrons versus Circa. “You also find that as conservative as Circa patrons seem to be, they have a wild side. They’re having a great time.”

“They like to watch the family-friendly and then come over here and party,” Munson said.

“This is a party — this isn’t your grandmother’s musical,” Tapscott said.

Though there are 21+ age restrictions for the late show (because audiences tend to be rowdier at midnight, with more alcohol), the show itself is exactly the same.

The new bar at the renovated Speakeasy, next to Circa ’21.

“It’s dirty at 7 and it’s dirty at 11; that’s just kinda what we do here,” Tapscott said.

“It’s the most fun when they know the callbacks and they’re having as much fun as we are,” Munson said of audiences. “It’s the diehard fans that are the best — seeing them living their best life while we’re living our best life.”

“I do think every performer should have to do a show like this, because it’s like no other,” Tapscott said.

“You really have to be on top of it,” Strandin said. “You can have your script memorized, but you never know what someone is going to call out — whether it’s something you’ve heard over and over, or people make things up on the spot and you have to be ready.”

Playing off audiences

Frank (here played by Chase Austin) more has the freedom to play off what the audience says, and Tapscott has scripted some responses based on what regular callbacks happen.

“Thirteen productions in, I know what works and what doesn’t,” he said. “If you say this line here, you’re going to get another laugh on top of that, so there’s little things we have added in. This person, if they say this, you say that, because it’s gonna work. It’s a tried-and-true thing.”

One of the things he’d love to do with the show is, put everyone’s name in a hat, learn as many roles as possible, and have an audience member pick out each for that night a half hour before curtain.

“That’s the dream — fishbowl Rocky Horror,” Strandin said.

She’s also thrilled to share a stage for the first time with Adam Cerny, who’s co-starred in shows at Davenport’s Mockingbird on Main, which is co-owned by Tapscott and Strandin.

Adam Cerney (front) is the new Rocky, with Doug Kutzli as the narrator.

“He’s a wonderful Rocky and that’s a tough role to cast,” Tapscott said. He hopes that Circa builds on the tech improvements for The Speakeasy.

“Cameron did an amazing job with what’s here, but we need more,” he said. “I think the space is so beautiful that expanding upon the tech would build on the whole thing. They’re on their way. This is a one-of-a-kind space in the area.”

The renovations also improved the acoustics, Tapscott said. “It’s a much more live room; before, you kind of felt like you were singing into a carpet.”

For more information on The Speakeasy, click HERE.