Thursday, February 23, 2023

THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW - 50th Anniversary Production.


Henry Rollo (Riff Raff) - Stellar Perry (Magenta) leading the cast in "The Rocky Horror Show"

Directed by Christopher Luscombe – Choreographed by Nathan Wright

Musical Direction by Jack Earle – Set Design by Hugh Durrant

Costume Design by Sue Blane – Lighting Design by Nick Richings

Theatre Royal, Sydney 18th February – 2nd April 2023.

Opening Night performance on 18th February reviewed by Bill Stephens

Deirdre Khoo (Janet) - Ethan Jones (Brad) in "The Rocky Horror Show"

Is it really 50 years since Reg Livermore scandalised and delighted Sydney with his joyously outrageous cavorting as Frank N Furter in Harry M. Miller’s production of The Rocky Horror Show in the less-than-salubrious New Arts Theatre in Glebe? 

Well a lot has happened in that 50 years and what was then subversive and shocking when we first met Frank N Furter is now mainstream. The show is much prettier than it was in the days of the New Arts Theatre, and Rocky is no longer the artificially made, fully grown, physically perfect muscle man complete with blonde hair and a tan that Frank N Furter originally created for his own pleasure. In this production he’s an artificially made, fully grown, physically perfect, black muscle man with black hair and indeterminate sun tan, charmingly and exuberantly performed by Loredo Malcolm.

Jason Donovan as Frank N Furter in the 50th Anniversary Production of
 "The Rocky Horror Show"

Australia’s favourite boy-next-door, Jason Donovan, now a little less boyish, but a West End veteran who played Frank N Furter in the 25th Anniversary production of “The Rocky Horror Show” still brings a shapely pair of legs, a fine singing voice and a knowing louche charm to his interpretation of the iconic role. His domain has been given a spruce-up with a fresh new setting by Hugh Durrant, colourful costumes by Sue Blane and state-of-the-art lighting design by Nick Richings replacing the beguiling tackiness of the original production.

The talented cast includes Ethan Jones and Deirdre Khoo as the previously wholesome and naïve Brad and Janet. Henry Rollo (Riff Raff), Stellar Perry (Magenta) and Darcey Eagle (Columbia) portray Frank N Furter’s associates, with Ellis Dolan in the dual roles of Eddie/ Dr Scott. All perform their roles with energy and commitment supported by four hard-working dancers, Josh Gates, Catty Hamilton, Jackson Reedman and Erica Wild who stylishly execute Nathan Wright’s natty choreography.

Myf Warhurst as the Narrator in "The Rocky Horror Show" 


As the narrator, Myf Warhurst, of “Spicks and Specks” fame, read her script efficiently but looked uncomfortable, substituting an engaging smile and a “what-am-I-doing here” attitude for any perceivable hint of stagecraft.

All the favourite Rocky Horror songs are included; “The Time Warp”, “Sweet Transvestite”, “I can Make You a Man”, “Touch-a-Touch-a-Touch Me”, all performed with gusto by the talented cast and Jack Earle’s tight quintet. 

Loredo Malcolm as Rocky in "The Rocky Horror Show"

However, despite the enthusiastic attempts of the ‘influencers’ noisily demonstrating how much they were enjoying the show, the response by most of the first-night audience, perhaps a generation or two older than the target audience, was surprisingly subdued.

So much so that it was hard to escape the impression that given how much attitudes have changed over the last 50 years, many in the audience were finding much of the on-stage sexual horse-play more worrying than entertaining; therefore raising the question that, at 50, has the once-subversive “Rocky Horror Show” lost its relevance?


                                                         Images by Daniel Boud

      This review also appears in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.