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Rocky Horror Show (Athenaeum Theatre) – musical theatre review

Fifty years on, it remains just as wacky, bold, sexy, energetic and as much fun as when Tim Curry first took to the London stage in 1973. Rocky Horror Show is, of course, a loving tribute to the science fiction and B-grade horror movies of the late 1940s through to the early 1970s. It’s the story of an innocent, newly engaged virgin couple, Brad Majors (Blake Bowden) and Janet Weiss (Deirdre Khoo).

Photos by Daniel Boud

When their car breaks down on a storm-filled night, they are caught in the middle of nowhere. Wet and weary, they are let into a nearby castle – the home of mad, alien transvestite scientist Frank N Furter (Jason Donovan) – by his “servant” Riff Raff (Henry Rollo). The pair has no idea what they are in for.

In front of them, Frank N Furter unveils his latest “creation”, a muscle man, a perfect physical specimen named Rocky (Daniel Erbacher). Before the night is over, Brad and Janet will have been pleasured like never before. Meanwhile, intent on returning to the planet Transexual in the galaxy of Transylvania, Riff Raff and his sister Magenta (Stellar Perry) give the doctor what was always coming to him.

The cast of Rocky Horror Show is mighty polished. They give their all to the delight of adoring patrons, who know all the songs and all the moves. Jason Donovan takes his time to milk every skerrick of love, laughter and debauchery from his demonstrative lead role. Giving sexual pleasure to Janet … and then Brad remains a high point in his repertoire.

A man with among the quickest and smartest retorts in the business – Joel Creasey – handles audience hecklers with aplomb, often with choice one liners. He takes his place as one of the best to assume the role of narrator. The velvety smooth voice of Blake Bowden makes an immediate and favourable impression as the nerdish Brad.

Deidre Khoo appears to relish not only her sexual awakening as Janet, but her good girl liberation. She is a sweet vocal dynamo. From her stunning appearance first up as usherette Roxy to her transformation as Magenta, Stellar Perry oozes poise and polish. Henry Rollo, too, makes an unforgettable entrance as Riff Raff and proceeds to revel in his deliciously deviant persona.

Columbia’s devotion to Frank N Furter is never in doubt with Darcey Eagle front and centre and her tap number is a delight. Daniel Erbacher is quite simply a blonde bombshell … an Adonis as Rocky. His chiselled abs glisten. Ellis Dolan doesn’t miss a beat as the discarded Frank N Furter creation Eddie and then steps it up as former science teacher Dr Everett Scott.

With the willing support of a strong ensemble and the strains of a flawless five-piece band, you’re in for an invigorating night of song, dance and almighty nonsense. Richard O’Brien’s book, music and lyrics have become timeless classics. Songs like Science Fiction, Damn It, Janet, Over At Frankenstein’s Place, The Time Warp and Sweet Transvestite are like favourite children … and I’ve only named the opening five.

I appreciated the simple, cartoon-like sets, with the piece de resistance being the large, dominant open roll of film above some of the action. Hugh Durrant is responsible. Sue Blane’s costuming is enticing, while Nick Richings’ lighting and Gareth Owen’s sound design give the production richness and strength. The stage craft is slick, thanks to choreographer Nathan M. Wright.

Director Christopher Luscombe has given us a show for the ages. Hats off too to musical director Daniel Griffin. Richard O’Brien’s 50th Anniversary production of Rocky Horror Show is a glorious, outstanding, outrageous success. It is playing at the Athenaeum Theatre until 23rd March, 2024.

Alex First

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