Web Exclusives:Features
a PAW web exclusive column

December 19, 2001:
Donkey dancing in NYC
Jordan Roth '97 sees his disco show into a second year and opens anew Rocky Horror Picture Show

by David Marcus '92

On a Saturday night in a New York club, a topless woman in pasties comes up to Jordan Roth '97, who gives her a kiss on the cheek and congratulates her on another successful performance.

Dressed in a black turtleneck sweater, jeans, and a navy blue Notre Dame hat, Roth may look like another reveler, but he's the producer here at The Donkey Show, a stylized interpretation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream set to disco music and performed by actors wearing outrageous 1970s attire - or, as in the case of the woman and several men in thongs, little attire at all.

An aspiring actor as a youth, Roth enjoyed performing in plays for Theatre Intime while at Princeton, but by the time he was a senior,he didn't want to stay on the stage. "There wasn't nearly enough control for me in that," he says. "Producing was a better fit for me in terms of blending the artistic interests with a business mind with creative thinking." Roth moved back to New York after college, where some of his friends were working on the idea that became The Donkey Show. "I fell in love with it and thought, 'We have to make something big out of this,'" Roth says. "I didn't figure out that that meant I was producing this until it was up and running."

The show's venue is on 23d Street near 10th Avenue, in New York's club district, but its audience includes parents out with their college-age daughters and couples dressed like they should be in a Greenwich country club rather than a Chelsea dance club. "We always knew that [the show] was a hybrid," Roth says. "There's a very hard-core club market, and that's about rotating DJs and promoters and staying out until 4 in the morning. This is a much more mainstream experience for people who want to come out and dance and have fun with their friends and be part of a fantastic party."

  Many of the partyers are women about to be married, a market niche Roth was quick to seize on. "Our biggest demographic is bachlorette parties," Roth says. "We started to see two and then three and then four groups of women and one of them would be wearing a veil." As a result, "We're in bridal shows, bridal magazines, bridal websites. We have a bachlorette package where the bride gets in free and everybody gets a glass of champagne."

The Donkey Show's success in both New York and London, where it opened last year, has allowed Roth to produce a stage version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the 1970s cult film classic. "I've always been a major Rocky fan. I have a distinct memory of going to a show in the Butler dining room, but I assure you that I was time-warping far before that," Roth says, referring to one of the movie's famous dances.

Roth's Rocky is running on Broadway, and he hopes to adapt it to the format that has worked so well in The Donkey Show, whose structure was itself influenced by aspects of Rocky. Both inspire audience participation with 1970s music that makes even the chronically unhip feel gyrationally adept. Roth aims to foster that feeling at The Donkey Show: "The vibe is crucial, because we are creating a kind of experience for our audiences where people feel free to let themselves go."