John R. Leffert has been an active member of the Louisville theater scene for more than 25 years. This year marks his 17th with the Jewish Community Center’s CenterStage, where he serves as artistic director and scenic and costume designer and has worked on more than 90 productions for the company.
But before he landed at CenterStage, he made his mark with several local troupes, including UofL’s Opera Theatre, Story Station Children’s Theatre, Derby Dinner Playhouse and many more.
Music and performing, he says, have always been in his blood, which led him earn a bachelor’s degree in vocal and instrumental music from Western Kentucky University, and a master’s in costume and scenic design from UofL.
Leffert is gearing up for CenterStage’s 2017/18 season that includes classics like “Kiss Me Kate,” “Jekyll & Hyde,” “The Little Mermaid” and even “Driving Miss Daisy.” But first, he’s caught in a time warp with one more go-round of “The Rocky Horror Show,” which closes out the previous season.
He tells Insider he decided to revive the show because it brought a whole new audience to CenterStage. Also, it’s fun to do, which is why it has resonated since its debut in 1973.
“There are very few shows that bring the audience and actors together like ‘Rocky Horror,'” says Leffert. “It’s very interactive! They work together to create the world of ‘Rocky Horror.'”
Leffert stresses that the musical version is different from the film version most people are familiar with, but he has tweaked some parts to pay homage to the 1975 film. He encourages his actors bring their own interpretation to the characters as well.
“Rocky Horror” will be performed only five times between June 3-15, so if you’re interested in experiencing the campy fun, it’s a good idea to get your tickets ($22) in advance.
Before the curtain rises on Saturday’s first show, we caught up with Leffert to ask him some very important questions …
What’s the most surprising thing on your Bucket List?
Directing one of my top five favorite musicals, “Jesus Christ Superstar” … at CenterStage at the JEWISH Community Center.
What poster was on your wall in junior high?
Wow. Remembering back that far is the true test. It is difficult for me to answer this without laughing. I had the infamous Farrah Fawcett-Majors — yes Majors — bathing suit poster. I think it was either because I wanted to be a Charlie’s Angel or I had a crush on her husband at the time, Lee Majors, the Six Million Dollar Man.
If you were mayor, to whom would you give the key to the city?
I would give it to the plaintiffs from Louisville in the Supreme Court Marriage Equality Case. These couples stood up and said, “We deserve the same rights as everyone else. Love does not discriminate.” They were brave, tenacious, vulnerable, persistent and strong. We owe them so much.
What are your preferred pizza toppings?
Well, that all depends where I am getting the pizza. I like Pizza Hut’s pepperoni and sausage; Papa John’s pineapple; Impellizzeri’s thin banana peppers; Diorio’s Buffalo Chicken; and California Pizza Kitchen’s spinach and artichokes. I could keep going. Clearly I like pizza.
If you could be any age for a week, what would it be?
That age would be 42. My mother passed away 10 years ago when I was 42 years of age. This would give me one more week to be with her.
What famous person do people say you resemble the most?
This is embarrassing, but when I was heavier and my hair was dark brown, I often was told I looked like Dom DeLuise.
Later, I was unfortunately told I looked like Eric Stonestreet, Cam from “Modern Family” — though I believe that to be more from his flamboyant nature and flair for the dramatic as well as his untucked, brightly colored and boldly printed shirts.
Who would you most like to be stuck with in an elevator?
Though elevator repairman comes to mind as my first answer, my second choice would be Lady Gaga. I find her to be one the most intriguing, most intelligent, most creative and most talented artists around today. This would also give me time to convince her she she needs to star in a Broadway revival of “Evita” playing Eva Peron. I believe her performance would stand up to the incomparable Patti LuPone’s, the original Evita.