For 40 years a group called the Full Body Cast has been live shadow-casting “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in Boston. It's one of the longest running weekly performances of the cult classic anywhere in the country.

Despite the decades-long run, members of the all-volunteer troupe say there's still something electric about the “Rocky Horror” experience that endures and continues to draw new fans in.

For the uninitiated, shortly after “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” was released in 1975, dedicated fans of the campy musical started showing up at screenings dressed as characters, singing and talking along to the film's dialogue. That evolved into full shadow casts regularly performing the movie as it played out behind them.

Five people on stage wearing corsets, gloves and fishnet tights doing a kickline.
Performers on stage during a Full Body Cast production of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" in 2015.
Courtesy of Full Body Cast

In Boston, the Full Body Cast started in April 1984, and has performed on most Saturdays since then, except for a hiatus during COVID-19. They've also had quite a few homes over the decades: They started first at a theater on Exeter Street, then had a more than 20 year run at the Harvard Square Theater before moving to their current home in 2012, the Boston Common AMC.

Ruthie Savitzky has been with the cast since 1992. She had seen the “Time Warp” on MTV and decided to go to a “Rocky Horror” showing with a friend at Harvard Square. After a few viewings, Savitzky took the plunge and joined the cast herself — and has since taken on different roles in the production, including props, acting and directing.

“The movie's been around for more than 40 years and the people who do the show really don't change,” she said. “People at 'Rocky' are known to be outcasts or not fitting in or different or ‘those goths’ or ‘the gays.’ And so they just feel out of place. And ‘Rocky’ can make those people feel comfortable because we're all in the same mindset. We're all doing the same thing and enjoying this strange cult movie.”

Jen Lipschitz, president of the board and associate producer for the Full Body Cast, has been with the production on and off since 2008, all working behind the scenes. She said generations of audience members are still coming to “Rocky Horror” and finding a place of acceptance.

“Especially with all the college kids who need a community and need a safe space to figure out who they are, where if they come in one week with one name and one set of pronouns and try it out, and then two weeks later, they say, never mind, that wasn't for me. That's fine. We're all with them,” she said.

Four performers on stage dressed in costume.
Actors performing in a Full Body Cast shadow cast of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
Courtesy of Full Body Cast

Still, “Rocky Horror” evolves as a production, said Tal Most, producer of FBC. It’s a performance that has always been welcoming and accepting of LGBTQ+ identities and the cast has worked to continue making shows an inclusive space.

Callback lines, the funny sayings the cast and audience shouts during certain scenes, have been updated to be more reflective of current sensitivities.

“We've had conversations as a cast about how we further that culture and keep the essential elements alive, while also bringing it into the modern era and into 2024,” Most said.

“The jokes that people yell out at the movie, jokes that were funny in 1975, a lot of them are not so funny today. We've found different ways to push the status quo and be funny or politically relevant without being offensive or using outdated kinds of language.”

One example is a commonly used callback making a joke about abortion — something Lipschitz said isn't something that needs to be made light of. Now, its replaced with a different joke.

“We want to be a safe space, that means punching up or not punching anyone at all,” Lipschitz said. “So, we've really reined in. The callbacks weren't adding to anyone's experience. They were just making people uncomfortable for no good reason. We're trying to be funny, not trying to cause people pain.”

Molly Scrivens is a former producer, current cast member and director of “Family By Choice,” a documentary about the history of the Full Body Cast. The title of the film comes from the group's own initials, FBC, and is an alternate name they sometimes use.

“I think people keep coming back because it's accepted by a lot of people that wouldn't normally feel like they are part of the mainstream,” Scrivens said. “The Full Body Cast prides ourselves on being inclusive. We have people from all walks of life that join our group and stay because they feel welcome.”

A woman is on stage in a pink dress with a newspaper over her head, with a man standing next to her holding her arm.
Performers playing Brad and Janet on stage during a Full Body Cast production of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
Courtesy of Full Body Cast

Performers can bring their own takes to characters and get a chance to take risks and express themselves through “Rocky Horror,” Most said.

“I really encourage the performers to be creative and to express themselves through their characters as well, because that's what makes it fun and interesting to watch,” Most said. “If people wanted to just watch the movie, they could just watch the movie, but we are bringing our own flavor and life to it.”

The Full Body Cast will be celebrating their 40-year run with a special anniversary show on Saturday, April 13. Current and past performers will share the stage together, look at archived performances and view a screening of “Family By Choice.”

“Rocky has an electricity to it that you just can't find anywhere else,” Most said. “I think that if you've seen it before, people can still experience that spark of excitement coming back to see it again. It's one of those things that doesn't get old. I mean, I've seen it an estimated over 450 times, and I still laugh at the jokes that my friends make that I've never heard before and have a fun time on stage.”

The Full Body Cast performs on most Saturdays at The Boston Common AMC. More information can be found here.