Just as outrageous as when it first appeared 45 years ago, The Rocky Horror Show has lost none of its sass either. I dare say a fair chunk of the audience know the words to almost every song. The revivals have been that plentiful.
The Rocky Horror Show is a tribute to sci-fi and B-grade horror movies from the late 1940s through to the early 1970s. It tells the story of an innocent couple who get caught in a storm and end up outside the home of a mad transvestite scientist. In front of them, Dr Frank-N-Furter unveils his new creation, a perfect physical specimen, named Rocky Horror.
Richard O’Brien provided the music, lyrics and the book. O’Brien was an out-of-work actor in the early ‘70s. Apparently he wrote The Rocky Horror Show to keep himself busy on winter evenings. He took a small amount of his unfinished work to Australian director Jim Sharman; who decided he wanted to direct it at the small experimental space upstairs at the Royal Court Theatre in London. After officially opening in June 1973, the word of mouth for The Rocky Horror Show was huge. It ran at several other locations until September 1980, notching up 2,960 performances and winning the 1973 Evening Standard Award for Best Musical.
Harry M. Miller produced the original Sydney production in 1974; starring Reg Livermore and Kate Fitzpatrick. After a year and a half in Sydney, the show moved to Melbourne, where it opened in October 1975. It ran for another 18 months and 458 performances, finally closing in May 1977. The Melbourne production starred Max Phipps as Frank-N-Furter and Joan Brockenshire as Magenta.
The Rocky Horror Show has played in over 30 countries and been translated into more than 20 languages. And now it’s back for another run in Melbourne.
With star appeal in Todd McKenney as Frank and Shane Jacobson as the narrator there was never a chance this latest incarnation would tank. But I’m here to say it’s exceeding good. McKenney is the ultimate showman. His vocals are polished. He struts and pouts and relishes the limelight as the leading man. His rendition of “Sweet Transvestite” alone is worth the price of admission. Bedding Janet and then Brad is milked for all it is worth … with a few choice addition and has everyone in stitches.
A reference to Presidents Trump and Putin when he first appears immediately ingratiates Jacobson to the patrons … as if they weren’t sold already. But his finest moment comes when he gives an off-the-cuff response to a heckler in the crowd, which references his breakout role in the movie Kenny. Make no mistake, those dulcet tones and the nuances of speech required as narrator fit oh so comfortably on the big man’s shoulders.
After more than 1,200 performances in the role, Kristian Lavercombe has made Riff-Raff his own. As always, what a revelation! Front and centre in “The Time Warp”, he had all in raptures. The remarkably chiseled body of Brendan Irving, who appeared in the 2014 and ‘15 Australian tours, has lost no definition in the intervening period. Complete with leopard-print budgie-smugglers he’s, indeed, the perfect specimen of a man.
Nadia Komazec will forever be remembered for her visual tomfoolery as Columbia in an elongated send off to Frank in the second act … which made her an instant audience favourite. Rob Mallett and Michelle Smitheram nail the decidedly dorky Brad Majors and Janet Weiss.
In all, there are 13 cast members, including Amanda Harrison as the Usherette and Magenta, and James Bryers as Eddie and Dr Scott, and a dynamic five-piece band. The fact the music is so recognisable makes the experience so much richer.
What’s not to love about this spectacular cult classic? It’s yet another triumphant production, with direction from Christopher Luscombe and choreography by Nathan M. Wright. It is playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne until 26 August 2018.
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- Rocky Horror Show (QPAC) – theatre review
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Her Majesty’s) – theatre review
- School of Rock: The Musical (Her Majesty’s) – theatre review
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television