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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, October 19, 2001

Siblings return to first love with 'Rocky Horror' show

By Christie Wilson
Neighbor Islands Editor

Singer Eric Gilliom has returned to Hawai'i to star as the transvestite Dr. Frank N Furter in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," which plays Oct. 26-Nov. 4 at 'Iao Theater on Maui.

Diane Bidermann

'The Rocky Horror Picture Show'

With Eric Gilliom and Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom

7:30 p.m. nightly Oct. 26-Nov. 4 (two shows Halloween, at 7:30 and 11 p.m.) at the 'Iao Theater

$15 and $20; (808) 242-6969

WAILUKU — The sensuous, oversized lips prominently featured on "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" posters seen all over Maui belong to Eric Gilliom, who has returned home to reprise the role of Dr. Frank N Furter in a hybrid version of the cult classic opening Oct. 26 at 'Iao Theater.

Eric Gilliom, 38, who is producing and directing, too, will be joined on stage by Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom, his sister and a Na Hoku Hanohano award-winning singer who just finished a monthlong tour in Japan.

Both Gillioms starred in a raucous 1992 production of the "Rocky Horror" stage musical at the same venue.

"It's the only theater in the state where people can throw food," Eric says.

Throw food?

For the uninitiated, audience participation at "Rocky Horror" movie and stage performances is obligatory. Although dressing up as your favorite, kinky character is optional, audience members are expected to throw rice during a wedding scene, squirt water pistols to simulate a rainstorm, toss toilet paper and confetti at appropriate moments, and shout out sometimes X-rated retorts. (In case you leave your props at home, bags containing the requisite items will be sold at the show for $5, with $1 going to Sept. 11 relief efforts.)

The Gillioms' father, Lloyd, devised a way to clean up the mess after each show by using powerful blowers to herd the debris to the front of the stage for collection.

The original "Rocky Horror Picture Show" first opened in 1973 as an experimental production in a small London theater. The 1975 movie version, starring Tim Curry and Susan Sarandon, was a critical and financial flop and was quickly shelved. It was brought back from the dead on the midnight-movie circuit and has been described as the greatest cult movie of all time.

"It's a really fun show to do. It's one of my favorite roles because it's so out there," Gilliom says of the transvestite scientist from outer space who camps it up in fishnet stockings, sequined high heels, a bustier and full drag-queen makeup.

The outrageous plot seems besides the point, but the story follows two clean-cut kids, Brad and his fiancee Janet, who run into car trouble in a storm and land on the doorstep of Dr. Frank N Furter, who is in the midst of creating the perfect man, a beefcake named Rocky Horror. Bizarre events ensue before the scientist is eventually destroyed with rayguns by two of his henchmen who have decided his lifestyle is a little too extreme.

Because of the difficulty in obtaining rights to "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" stage musical, Eric Gilliom's 2001 version is going to be different from the 1992 Maui production. As other groups have done, he purchased the rights to the movie, which will be shown on two large screens on either side of the '?ao stage as the cast interacts with the characters on screen — and in the crazed audience.

"That's what's so cool about this show. You never really know what's going to happen," Eric Gilliom says.

He says he has missed the energy and excitement of "the most satisfying of all types of performing. ... Both Amy and I have been itching to get back into theater; that's where our roots are."

The two, who starred together in Maui productions of "Evita" and "Godspell," are graduates of the Performing Arts Center at Baldwin High School. They recently performed together in four West Coast concerts.

Amy Gilliom says it didn't take much convincing to get her to join the "Rocky Horror" cast, which includes Jerry Eiting (as Brad), Nathan Erlich (Rocky) and Tim Wolfe (narrator) among others.

"I'm a theater baby at heart," Amy Gilliom says. "That's the first thing I did."

But she has had to switch gears from her concert persona and is relearning some of her dormant theater skills, such as choreography. "For the last eight years I've been playing myself, and now I'm playing a character again," she said. "The transition was a little weird at first, but it's like riding a bicycle" — you never forget.

Some fans may be in for a surprise. As Janet, who is drenched in a downpour at the beginning of the musical, Amy Gilliom spends most of the show dressed only in her underwear. "All the tutus are going to be at the show in their mu'umu'u, and here I'll be in my underwear," she says, laughing.

Once the show wraps, she will be heading back to Japan, and Eric will return to the Mainland.

He left Hawai'i around the time of the 1999 release date of his second album, "Like Chow Fun," to pursue an acting career in Los Angeles. He appeared this year in "Tomcats," a movie by Maui friend Greg Poirier, and contributed two songs to the soundtrack album, and had a role on the series finale of "The Jamie Foxx Show."

About three months ago, Eric Gilliom taped a pilot for a comedy sketch TV show called "These Nuts" with Foxx, a longtime friend. Gilliom and new girlfriend Samantha Nagel, who has a part in "Rocky Horror," are among seven cast members in "These Nuts." He also is hoping to appear in a movie called "Inglewood" that Foxx is trying to develop.

In the meantime, Eric Gilliom has been writing for a third album that he hopes to release next year. He wants to put together another band and also would like to return to Hawai'i to stage one or two theater productions a year.

"I couldn't be satisfied if I had only done one genre," he says. "It might be more financially rewarding, but that's never been one of the most important things for me. It's more gratifying to follow your art for artistic reasons, not financial reasons."