REVIEW: The Rocky Horror Show – 50th anniversary time warps to Birmingham
The cult musical comedy The Rocky Horror Show comes to Birmingham as it celebrates 50 years of entertaining audiences around the world.
The immersive show – which encourages audience participation – is now playing at The Alexandra Theatre.
Richard O’Brien’s exhilarating glam rock influenced musical first premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in 1973 and has been seen by over 30 million people around the world and was adapted into a Hollywood film in 1975 – shot on locations used by the famous Hammer Horror Film – starring Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon and Meatloaf.
This is the kind of show that starts right outside on the street as people line up in queues waiting their turn to enter the theatre. The audience at the press night performance was a lush rainbow of gender fluid colours and outfits, with exotic hats, lingerie and stilettos that mirror the characters of the musical.
The story of this catchy tune-laden musical is simplicity and is a heartfelt tribute to the Science Fiction and B-Movies of the 1950’s.
A clean cut, prim and proper courting couple is out one wet and wild night when their car breaks down near the spooky residence of lascivious transvestite Dr Frank-N-Furter who is in the middle of a secret experiment to create an artificial man called Rocky who has the perfect body.
The interactions between the conservative couple and the madcap scientist make for raunchy and raucous interplay between the performers and audience members.
Each performance of this hit-show is a unique experience because the material allows room for audience participation, and humorous heckling, which adds layers of unexpected improvisations and excitement.
The cast of this 50th anniversary production do justice to this long-running singing and dancing show. Richard Meek and Hayley Flaherty as the squeaky clean and green-behind-ears couple Brad and Janet share a charming chemistry and we see their descent from spotless and innocent individuals into sweaty and debauched creatures seeking pleasure in the world of Frank-N-Furter.
Tim Curry as Frank-N-Furter in the film incarnation of the show still remains the very epitome of the character but Stephen Webb took to the stage and he immediately connected with the audience.
Webb has the right balance between high camp and delicious drama, and he wears his erotic attire as naturally as he sings and delivers his lines. He is absolutely convincing and full of energy as he dances and struts about the stage in high heels with complete ease.
Riff Raff, another iconic character in the show who casts a long shadow from the movie version – and who was played by show creator Richard O’Brien – is performed to perfection in the anniversary version by Kristian Lavercombe. The seasoned artist puts his own stamp on the Riff Raff and gives a memorable rendition of the role.
Susie McAdam as the Usherette and Magenta, and Philip Franks as the Narrator add their own special ingredients which add to the show’s infectious exuberance.
The role of the muscular and athletic Rocky is taken by Ben Westhead who injects plenty of sly and sexy humour into the part.
Nathan Wright’s choreography takes the original moves and gives them a new spin while still retaining the powerhouse energy in each dance and song number.
Sue Blane’s costume designs evoke the decadent styles which have become such an integral part of the show. Blane is no stranger to the world of Rocky Horror as she worked on the original movie adaption of the show.
The landscape of the Rocky Horror is brought to life by set designer Hugh Durrant who uses bold prime colours and vibrant neon lines to craft the world of Frank-N-Furter.
Despite the gothic mist and shadows the lighting by Nick Richings still manages to glow with glamour which sets the mood for the show.
Director Christopher Lushcombe should be proud of what he’s achieved with this production. A show that is 50 years old is brought to the 21st century in a bright and exiting manner that pulsates with energy.
It’s time to put on a lick of lipstick, slip into a pair of stilettos, and pull on black suspenders and garters and dance to the time warp again, the Rocky Horror 50th anniversary is in town!
VERDICT: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The Rocky Horror Show is now playing at The Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham until Saturday 1 April