There's nothing inherently wrong with light and fluffy theatrical entertainments. If you want to pay $30 to watch a fictional mad scientist seduce a couple of fictional "squares" in his fictional castle, or pay $65 for dinner theater about international spies Keystone Kops-ing their way around a PanAm jet circa 1962, that's your business. Neither The Rocky Horror Show nor To Savor Tomorrow has anything substantial to say. But here's what they are saying, just so you know what you're missing.

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The Rocky Horror Show is a 1973 rock musical by a New Zealander named Richard O'Brien and an Australian named Jim Sharman that was a kind of follow-up to Jesus Christ Superstar and Hair—1970s sexual and political liberation via rock 'n' roll, blah blah blah. A leather-clad siren (Magenta, played by Joan Jankowski) opens the show with a song about old science-fiction movies while straddling a chair (per Bob Fosse's choreography for "Hey Big Spender" in Sweet Charity). Then some dorky fiancés named Brad (Tadd Morgan) and Janet (Monica Wulzen) get a flat tire on a dark and stormy night. In their search for help, they wind up at a castle run by a sarcastic, bisexual rapist named Doctor Frank-N-Furter, who fancies himself a sci-fi satyr—the Marquis de Sade fused with David Bowie circa Aladdin Sane.

Any nominally intelligent, self-respecting person who met the imperious and obnoxious Dr. Furter would kick him in the balls, leave his castle, and get on with the business of living. But foolish Brad and Janet get sucked into the vortex of Dr. Furter's minions—fucking fools who are fools for fucking and do whatever they're told.

Dr. Furter is busy in his lab designing a living, breathing sex doll (Rocky, played by Peter Farrar), and Brad and Janet get tangled in his small-scale sexual revolution. As Dr. Furter, Josh Hartvigson sings powerfully and mostly on key—not everybody in the show can. The sound and diction are so muddled, it's tough to understand what people are caterwauling about. (Wikipedia will tell you more about Rocky Horror than this production ever could.)

Rocky Horror has devotees. For decades, legions of adolescents have shown up at midnight-movie screenings to titter over the script's open discussion of sexual pleasure and wallow in its anemically rock 'n' roll score. The musical served an important sociological function (and meant a great deal) to sexually repressed/oppressed children of the '70s, '80s, and '90s. But it's bound for the boneyard of all nostalgia pieces—just an Annie Get Your Gun in leather and O-rings.

To Savor Tomorrow by the folks at Cafe Nordo, which sprang from the ashes of the cirque-noir company Circus Contraption two years ago, is also riding the nostalgia pony. The Nordo people serve multi-course meals while spinning out genre plots—mystery movies, 19th-century sailing epics—and reviving the dinner-theater tradition of yore. Nordo shows always carry a bit of culinary didacticism, celebrating the home-cooked meal and scolding factory farms and agribusiness. In To Savor Tomorrow, set on a Pan Am flight from Hawaii to Seattle in the early 1960s, Cold War spies struggle over a briefcase carrying the "secret" of fast food. Cocktails (mai tais, Manhattans) and courses (crab suspended in gelatin, meat loaf) are served intermittently.

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Dinner theater has always been a two-wrongs-don't-make-a-right proposition—it usually half-asses both the theater and the food, but one feels guilty not liking it since the people involved usually seem talented, hardworking, and amiable. The same is true in this case. Most everyone involved with To Savor Tomorrow has done great work in the past: piano player Annastasia Workman, actors Ray Tagavilla and Max Davis, cocreators Erin Brindley and Terry Podgorski.

Nordo, like Rocky Horror, has devotees. Maybe not people who like dinner or like theater, but people who like "dinner theater"—a taste perhaps as kinky and punishing as enjoying the company of an obnoxious, sarcastic, bisexual rapist. recommended

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