In the predawn hours of a mid-April night, punky revelers weary from a spirited session of jumps to the left, steps to the right and vigorous pelvic thrusts were scattered on a ballroom floor at Casa Loma, a fearsome Gothic-style castle here. High above the bodies, elevated on a crane, stood a gyrating Laverne Cox, who was dressed in a black gown and an enormous disc-shaped headpiece. Gradually lowered to the ground, Ms. Cox met the path of a virginal couple trying to back away from the weirdness. There she extended a hand, covering a rhinestone-sequined glove, and sang her fateful first line: “How do you do?”
This was a contemporary take on “Sweet Transvestite,” the boundary-breaking number from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the campy 1975 movie musical. It is here that viewers are introduced to its central character, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a cross-dressing pansexual alien scientist who, one rainy evening, brings to life an artificial creature designed for carnal pleasures and seduces a newly engaged boyfriend and girlfriend.
At its original release, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (adapted from Richard O’Brien’s stage musical “The Rocky Horror Show” and directed by Jim Sharman) found few converts. It flopped, despite its spirited rock ’n’ roll score and early memorable performances from Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Meat Loaf and especially Tim Curry, who originated and defined the role of the lascivious, irresistible Frank.
Yet the film, with its shaggy production values and odd pacing, became a cult hit at midnight showings. It was embraced by fans who added their own callback dialogue, who threw toast and toilet paper at the screen and who found comfort in its message about embracing the unfamiliar.
Forty-one years later, the Fox network has prepared a “Rocky Horror” remake that it will show on Oct. 20, directed by Kenny Ortega (“High School Musical”) and led by Ms. Cox, a prominent transgender actor and activist, as Frank.
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