"The first time I saw The Rocky Horror Show live, it was celebrating 25 years, now here we are at Nottingham's Royal Concert Hall celebrating fifty!"
As my all time favourite musical, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen it. You might say I’m a bit of a (s)expert when it comes to Richard O’Brien's cult classic.
So why keep going to the same show? As any Rocky fan will tell you - it’s simply brilliant, and there’s one thing that makes each performance unique - you, the audience, the most dedicated in musical theatre. With their costumes and call outs, take every preconceived idea you have about going to the theatre and tear up the rule book when Rocky is in town.
Written by Richard O’Brien, the show had its first public airing at The Royal Court in 1973. Two years later the movie was released, making stars of the likes of Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, and the late Meat Loaf with classic songs like 'The Time Warp' and 'Sweet Transvestite'.
So how do you take an iconic piece, which has been seen and enjoyed by the world over in a whole manner of reincarnations for half a century and keep it fresh? Well Rocky seems to improve with age in some ways, and yet competing with the original film version is no easy task.
Do you do your own interpretation? Hard when the original is so iconic. Enter Director Christopher Luscombe, who has worked on the likes of Spamalot and Little Shop of Horrors.
Rocky seems to improve with age in some ways, and yet competing with the original film version is no easy task
The story follows the squeaky-clean, young couple, Brad and Janet, who stumble upon a castle on a dark and stormy night they’ll never forget. The castle's inhabitants are an eccentric, transvestite alien scientist, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, and his band of friends. The couple are soon thrown into a world of sexual freedom and experimentation, with the help of Frank, who is hosting a party to unveil his latest creation, Rocky to the world.
Whilst being home to various celebs in roles over the years, the production doesn’t rely on big names to sell tickets. Seasoned musical star Richard Meek plays Brad, with a cheeky innocence he portrays brilliantly. Haley Flaherty makes an endearing Janet in the role made famous by Susan Sarandon, and there’s great casting with Darcey Finden as Columbia and Suzie McAdam as Magenta/Usherette.
Of course Frank n’ Furter is the star of the show. It is a role made famous by a young Tim Curry, who in pursuing an acting career pretty much disassociated himself from the role for a while, only to enjoy delayed adulation in the years that followed. So anyone taking on the role of Frank has some very high-heeled shoes to fill.
Thankfully, Stephen Webb finds the perfect balance, channelling all the best parts of Tim Curry while also bringing something new and making it his own. He has the perfect look and vocal ability. There were one or two vocal nuances missing from the famous lines. Am I being picky? Maybe. He’s a fine performer and having seen him in the role for a number of years now, he’s definitely gone from strength to strength.
Stephen Webb finds the perfect balance, channelling all the best parts of Tim Curry while bringing something new and making it his own
Kristian Lavercomb also reprises his role as Riff Raff, one which he has played for over 2000 performances, more than anyone else in its history. I know I’ve seen him at least 4 times in the role originally made famous by creator Richard O’Brien. He plays it slightly differently, more lurching and less urchin, but in a fine voice.
A role that has gained momentum over the years is that of the narrator. Ours for the evening is relative new boy Joe McFadden (Holby). He looks excited to be there, and although a couple of his jokes fall a bit flat, he relished in the part, adding in topical and local ad-libs. He was ready and unfazed by the expected audience call outs in a role that can make or break the show.
The set design is fairly simple, but it works and the costumes are visually stunning, capturing the essence of the original film. The lighting and sound add to the overall atmosphere of the show. The choreography is energetic, with the iconic 'Time Warp' getting the audience on their feet.
This production of the Rocky Horror Show is a must see for fans and ‘virgins’ alike. It may be fifty years old, but it's as fast, funny and erotic as ever.
Catch it at The Royal Concert Hall where it’ll be till Saturday. Long may it time warp again and again.
You can buy tickets for the Rocky Horror Show here
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