Rocky Horror Show

March 14, 2023 | By | Reply More

★★★★☆  Anything but rocky

Playhouse: Mon 13 – Sat 18 Mar 2023
Review by Martin Gray

There’s a light, over at Greenside Place as The Rocky Horror Show returns to the Playhouse with its 50th anniversary show.

It’s hard to believe Richard O’Brien’s musical homage to the schlocky horror and sci-fi films of the mid-20th century has been around so long, it still feels like a rock rebel. But vintage it is.

Haley Flaherty as Janet, Richard Meek as Brad, Joe Allen, Reece Budin, Fionán O’Carroll, Stefania Du Toit and Jessica Sole as The Phantoms.

What it isn’t is tired – the current production has enough energy to raise the dead, and Monday’s opening night audience certainly felt it, greeting every entrance like the Second Coming.

The story is a simple one. Sweethearts Brad and Janet, lost on a dark country road in the middle of a rainstorm, trek to the nearest dwelling to beg use of the telephone. Soon they’re knee deep in mad science and madder sex, as master of the house Frank-N-Furter teaches the uptight pair to, shall we say, relax.

The castle’s other residents include brother and sister servants Riff Raff and Magenta, Eddie the handyman, the mysterious Columbia and newly minted Rocky, an artificial Charles Atlas complete with skimpy leopardskin.

magnificent

The cast members are magnificent, from Haley Flaherty and Richard Meek’s Janet and Brad, introduced via jaunty bubblegum pop ditty Dammit, Janet, to Stephen Webb’s Frank, who arrives to the throbbing Sweet Transvestite from Transylvania.

Stephen Webb as Frank N Furter, Ben Westhead as Rocky

Before any of that, though, the scene is set by Suzie McAdam’s Usherette, with Science Fiction/Double Feature, in which Fay Wray and King Kong share song space with Flash Gordon, the giant Tarantula and the Forbidden Planet.

McAdams, who has one heck of a voice, is unrecognisable later as Magenta, with Bride of Frankenstein hair from under which she rolls her Rs like all the best vampires. Kristian Lavercombe’s Riff Raff partners her in fine style, switching between Igor-like lackey and imperious oppressor as required.

While it’s hard to take your eyes off Rocky, whether you’re admiring his six-pack or, well, any other bit of him, really, the other talents of Ben Westhead won’t go unnoticed. He’s a charming performer with a killer voice.

infectious

While Rocky’s predecessor in Frank’s affections, Eddie, doesn’t have the Adonis thing going on, Joe Allen – who also plays show latecomer Dr Scott – has the pipes, as demonstrated on the infectious Hot Patootie, Bless My Soul. As for Columbia, Darcy Finden can move from motorbike growl to sweet soprano in seconds, and taps like the devil.

There’s able back-up in the singing and dancing department from The Phantoms, Reece Budin, Fionán O’Carroll, Jessica Sole and Stefania Du Toit, and swings Tyla Dee Nurden and Nathan Shaw. None of these performers are top billed, but they’re all top class.

Stephen Webb as Frank N Furter, Haley Flaherty as Janet, Richard Meek as Brad, Suzie McAdam as Magenta, Kristian Lavercombe as Riff Raff, Darcy Finden as Columbia, Joe Allen, Reece Budin, Fionán O’Carroll, Stefania Du Toit and Jessica Sole as The Phantoms

The only performer not there to demonstrate their musical chops still manages to steal the show. Philip Franks of Darling Buds of May and Countdown fame, with velvet voice to match his dinner jacket, is the Narrator cum Greek Chorus, introducing the action and commenting on it.

The Rocky Horror Show is famed for audience interaction, with lines yelled out and insults hurled. Franks is a genius so far as welcoming and batting back the comments goes. Better yet, his topical gags and Scotland-specific barbs are beyond hilarious… and I’m not going to spoil a single one.

It’s hard to fault director Christopher Luscombe’s production – occasionally musical director Charlie Ingles’ band is a tad too loud for performers to be heard, but only occasionally… the five piece combo, perched above the stage, is a massive asset.

thrilling

The production design is nothing to be sniffed at either, from Hugh Durrant’s film reel-edged set to Nick Richings’ thrilling lighting via Sue Blane’s burlesque costumes, the cuts complementing Nathan M Wright’s dazzling choreography.

This production is a winner from start to finish, a great way to kick off The Rocky Horror Show’s next 50 years. As ever, the message remains: ‘Don’t dream it, be it’. To which I’d add, don’t miss it, be there.

Running time: two hours (including one interval)
Playhouse 18 – 22 Greenside Place, EH1 3AA.
Mon 13 – Sat 18 March 2023

Mon – Thurs: 8pm; Fri/Sat: 5pm & 8.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

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