Theater & Dance
Keith Pinto

Current show: "Rocky Horror Show"
By: Book, music and lyrics by Richard O'Brien
Produced by: San Jose Stage Company
Directed by: Allison F. Rich
Choreographed by: Tracey Shaw
Music direction by: Allison F. Rich
Featuring: Keith Pinto, Allison F. Rich, Parker Harris, Ashley Garlick, Edward Hightower, Sean Okuniewicz, Jill Miller, Matthew Kropschot, Will Springhorn Jr., Tracey Shaw, Monica Moe, Brian Conway
Running time: 100 minutes, one intermission
When: October 2-November 3, 2019
Where: San Jose Stage Company, 490 South 1st Street, San Jose
Tickets: $32-$60; call408-283-7142 or vist

Keith Pinto
Dave Lepori / San Jose Stage
Keith Pinto as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in San Jose Stage Company’s production of Richard O’Brien’s "The Rocky Horror Show." The raucaus and hilarious rock 'n' roll musical runs October 2 through November 3, 2019.
He's just a sweet transvestite,
rockin' those towering heels
Keith Pinto finds a new respect for women who wear heels every day
October 3, 2019

When Keith Pinto answered the phone a few weeks ago in his Mill Valley home, he had just gotten home from the acupuncturist.

“I got acupuncture for my legs,” he said. “For my calves and hamstrings, from being in these heels that we’re working with in the show.

“I’m going to make it, damn it!”

Of course he’s going to make it. He’s Keith Pinto, dancer, actor and singer! He’s made it through “Cabaret” as the best emcee ever, he’s made it through in the lead role of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” and he’s sliced and diced as “Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

He’s not going to let the five-inch heels worn by Dr. Frank-N-Furter stop him in “Rocky Horror Show” at San Jose Stage! (Now in previews, it opens on Saturday.)

“Everyone in the show is really needing to take care of themselves,” he said. “We’re working really hard in the first two weeks of rehearsal (when we spoke). ... It’s a very interesting process, while in rehearsal, I had to figure out how much I could be in the heels … the hardest thing to do is just standing around.”

It’s no small accomplishment, to be the “Sweet Transvestite” of Richard O’Brien’s beloved, crazy musical that is a tribute to sexual license, science fiction and horror B movies. The show ran for years in London, for nine months in Los Angeles, but tanked on Broadway. It is not a show for the stuffy or the shy.

In the show, newly engaged straights, Brad and Janet, stranded in a storm, ask for help in the dark and scary mansion of the mad scientist Frank-N-Furter. Brad sings “Dammit, Janet!” Janet sings “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me.” The extreme residents of the castle sing “The Time Warp.” (“It’s just a jump to the left, then a step to the right.”)

Frank-N-Furter is working on his artificial man, Rocky Horror, but takes some time to introduce Brad and Janet to the joys of sensuality.

It’s a wild and crazy show. It was also made into a movie, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” which became an enormous cult hit. All over the world, people line up for midnight showings, at which many extreme things happen in the audience. It’s a riot.

Performing in it, Pinto said, “is quite a challenge, but it’s fun.”

The Stage management (Randall and Cathleen King) “have been wanting to do the show for maybe 30 years,” said Pinto. “For whatever reason, the rights were hard to license for professional theaters.” (It has been staged by smaller companies.)

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“Maybe some policy has changed. They were able to get it,” said Pinto. “When they knew they were going to do it, they approached me. It’s a bucket-list show for me. I jumped at the chance.” (Now that the licensing has apparently changed, A.C.T. in San Francisco plans to perform it, too, in 2020.)

Funny thing: Pinto has never seen “Rocky Horror Show” on stage or on screen. But has listened to the soundtrack for about 20 years.

Doing it now, he said “The show is just way too much fun. It's everything I love. Its style, it’s fun … the dirty choreography, jazzy, kind of like hip-hop, too. Tracey Lee Shaw is choreographing, and also is one of the phantoms. It’s definitely the kind of choreography I love. You can really sink your teeth into it. The campiness of the material is so fun. There are moments raw and hard, an undercurrent of just wackiness.”

And he knows about the audience, which he calls “a huge part of the show. There is a cult following. The audience talks back … it’s almost like an alternate script to the show. We’ve been talking about it. There are a number of Rocky fanatics in the cast. They say, ‘It’s possible that the audience could scream THIS at you — you have to be prepared, because they really scream at you.’”

And let us not forget those crazy shoes, in which Pinto must stomp around in, while singing “Sweet Transvestite.”

“They are platforms. Pretty tall, really tall heel, five inches, maybe,” Pinto said. “I’m not positive. Definitely taller than anything I’ve ever done. In ‘Hedwig,’ I had a sneaker wedge.

Ashley Garlick is the costume designer, and plays Janet.

“Ashley, when we started talking, said, ‘Put on your big girl shoes!’ She got them for me during the summer,” Pinto said. “I had them so I could start playing around with them. I had an idea what it would be like, but once you’re in them for four-plus hours, well, nothing can really prepare you for that. It’s intense.

“I have a newfound respect for what women go through every day. Oh my God! I can’t feel my toes!”

While Pinto — who teaches hip-hop dance at San Jose State — has done straighter musicals, such as “Singin’ in the Rain,” he has a definite affinity for over-the-top roles such as Frank-N-Furter, Hedwig, and the Emcee in “Cabaret.”

“I do love them,” he said. “I love style pieces. I love the physicality. I really like to approach every role from a character-actor viewpoint, and have a specific physicality for every role, even when the script doesn’t actually call for it.

“I love it, sort of this almost magnetism in the roles, as I seem them. Almost psychotically (laughs). I love vaudeville style comedy … even a Sweeney, that is so over the top, it really is a fun challenge to try to bring authenticity, realism, to something that is so theatrical and dramatic. It’s fun to be able to command that space in that way. It is freeing, in a lot of ways.”

John Orr is a member of the America Theatre Critics Association. Email him at
Keith Pinto
Dave Lepori / San Jose Stage
Keith Pinto rocks the lingerie look of Dr. Frank-N-Furter for "Rocky Horror Show," which runs October2 through November 3, 2019, at San Jose Stage.