MUSICAL REVIEW: The Rocky Horror Show

The Rocky Horror Show (2014)
magenta janet columbiaAnyone unfamiliar with Rocky Horror should be forewarned: it’s weird and it’s sexual. Prudes need not apply. It’s also not for kids. Seriously, parents! DON’T BRING YOUR KIDS TO THIS SHOW. They’re too young for blow job jokes. Of course there were kids in the audience because people are stupid. Maybe their parents were unaware of the content prior to seeing the show, but honestly you should really be doing your research before you fork out $100 a ticket for a child (or adult for that matter). Late teens will probably be okay, depending on how conservative your family is. If you are conservative you should probably just sit this one out – we don’t need to hear you bitch and moan about the vulgarity of it all. There is enough moaning in this show as it is. The better kind.

Craig McLachlan
Craig McLachlan

The show IS weird. When newly engaged sweethearts Brad (Tim Maddren) and Janet (Christie Whelan Browne) have their car break down in the middle of a stormy night, they are forced to knock on the door of Dr. Frank-n-Furter (Craig McLachlan), “a sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania”. But he’s not sweet at all. I’ve seen the film a few times, the 2008 production and now the current show, and I still get lost about 2/3 of the way through. It is simply bizarre. But not in an isolating art-house kind of way. Richard O’Brien’s musical was born out of his passion for science fiction and B horror movies from the 1940s-1970s with which I do not have much familiarity. I’m guessing they were weird and rather ridiculous, and probably unknowingly hilarious. If so, Rocky certainly succeeds in paying homage to the genre/period. There is a clear theme regarding the loss of innocence, as Brad and Janet are well and truly changed after their night at Frank’s. This should strike a chord with most audiences who have felt that loss of innocence at some stage of their lives (whether sexual or otherwise) and have felt it in society at large also. If you’re a child whose parents have stupidly brought you along to this show, you might just lose it while you’re watching.

Innocence about to be lost over at the Frankenstein place
Innocence about to be lost over at the Frankenstein place

If you’re a fan of the film then you should definitely enjoy the show because it actually has actors who can sing! And not Susan Sarandon. The whole cast were top notch. Craig McLachlan returns to the role 22 years later and he still kills it. I actually teared up at his entrance because it was just so terrific. I think Craig cops a bit of crap for his time on Neighbours and his music career but there’s no denying the man has talent. The show is worth seeing for him alone. BUT as it so happens the rest of the cast are amazing as well. I had never even heard of Kristian Lavercombe who plays Riff Raff, but he was on fire! What a voice and what presence. He brings the ‘Time Warp’ to life completely. Erika Heynatz as Magenta continues to surprise me as an ex-model (in addition to various other credits) who is breaking into musical theatre without a hint of self-consciousness. She is surprisingly good. Ashlea Pyke delights as Columbia who brought the house down with her hilarious high-energised moment late in the last act. You know it’s a good cast when Christie Whelan Browne isn’t the stand-out performer, but make no mistake she is loveable as always: one of the main talents in Australian musical theatre today. She can do no wrong. Tim Maddren as Brad inhabited his nerdy role perfectly, as did Brendan Irving as gorgeous hot-bod Rocky. Nicholas Christo as Eddie/Dr. Scott impressed me with his clear as crystal diction in a number in which lyrics often easily get lost (‘Hot Patootie’). Tony Farrell played The Narrator who let’s face it, is a bit of a nothing role. But thank the stormy heavens that Derryn Hinch was not involved this time around.

Kristian Lavercombe, Erika Heynatz and Craig McLachlan
Kristian Lavercombe, Erika Heynatz and Craig McLachlan

Overall, this production narrowly surpasses the 2008 production (automatic extra points for no bad stunt casting), though unfortunately there was no giant exploding confetti penis this time around. The set was simple but effective, with a giant role of film framing the stage, highlighting the ‘Science Fiction/ Double Feature’ style of the show. Both set and costumes are replicas of the recent 40th anniversary West End production. From Frank’s corset and tights to Brad and Janet’s gender-stereotyped 1950s suburbia cliché, to Columbia’s rainbow assortment of sequins (my favourite), to Rocky’s leopard print underwear: it’s ALL good to look at. The curtain call alone includes all new costumes which seems such an effort for something we only get to see for a few minutes, but it’s much appreciated. The sound was right on the money which was a relief as I’d anticipated potential teething problems for a preview. The band is stellar – be prepared for a loud sudden opening which made me and my friend both jump out of our seats.
set

Craig McLachlan as Frank-n-furter
Craig McLachlan as Frank-n-furter
Tim Maddren and Christie Whelan Browne as Brad and Janet
Tim Maddren and Christie Whelan Browne as Brad and Janet
Ashlea Pyke as Columbia
Ashlea Pyke as Columbia
Brendan Irving as Rocky
Brendan Irving as Rocky

There are plenty of fun musical numbers in Rocky, from the more well-known crowd pleasers ‘Time Warp’ and ‘Sweet Transvestite’ to the peppy ‘Damn it, Janet’, the naïve/sinister ‘Over at the Frankenstein Place’, the rock ‘n’ roll number ‘Hot Patootie’, the sexalicious ‘Touch-a-Touch-a Touch me’, and the big drag number ‘Rose Tint My World’. Rocky has a cult following all over the world which unfortunately means you will get a few over-enthusiastic dicks in the audience. By all means, be appreciative, but don’t ruin it for everyone else with your loud comments mid-dialogue (Lady behind me I’m looking at you. Or I would if I wanted to take my eyes off this phenomenal production for one second). A few audience members got up to do the Time Warp at curtain call so good on them. I was more than willing to join the standing ovation that followed, and considering it was only a preview performance, that is telling of the quality of this production. It was exceptionally high standard and polished to perfection. If you’ve got an open mind and a love for theatre do not miss this limited season. I see you shiver, with antici…

4.5 stars

The Rocky Horror Show is currently playing a limited season at The Comedy Theatre (Melbourne) until 13th July

…pation.

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