THE over-used phrase “timeless classic” has never been more appropriately applied than to the Rocky Horror Show, writes Stuart Flitton.
While the 1975 film is a treasured memory for many, to get the full force of the phenomenon, you have to see the stage version and audiences up and down the country currently have an opportunity to see this during a tour lasting nearly a year.
This week, until Saturday 9 March, this piece of Transexual, Transylvania, is planted at The New Victoria Theatre in London.
The skill and energy on display at this show are incredible. From the opening song Science Fiction by an Usherette (Laura Harrison), who bookends the show, the audience is taken into the mad world of what the creator called “an alternative pantomime.”
Former Strictly Come Dancing professional dancer Joanne Clifton and A1 band member Ben Adams are perfect as the preppy young couple, Brad and Janet, who stumble upon a creepy mansion full of weird characters. Clifton reveals a strong and clear voice and she and Adams clearly have long careers in top musical theatre ahead of them.
The plot, a homage to 1950s hammy horror, is turned on its head as the “Dr Evil” in charge of proceedings is a 6ft, muscle-bound transvestite called Frank N Furter (Stephen Webb).
This is a part with no boundaries and Webb throws his full force into it. Belting out Sweet Transvestite but also the balladic Don’t Dream It — Be It, Webb commands the stage.
Frankie’s coterie are led by Riff Raff (Kristian Lavercombe), Magenta (Laura Harrison) and Columbia (Miracle Grange), who excel individually and as a group.
The role of Narrator is, like most of the main roles, being taken by different actors during the long tour and Woking audiences are very fortunate to have Dom Joly.
What makes this stage show unique is that, as in pantomime, audience members dress up and feel free to shout out.
But instead of small children dressed as fairies, shouting “he’s behind you”, the front rows and large pockets of the auditorium are full of superfans, wearing a variety of the outlandish costumes and make-up of the characters.
The heckling, sometimes called call-backs, gives the show an extra level and ranges from the witty to the crude.
Joly handles these perfectly, sometimes raising an eyebrow and at other times taking the heckle and playing with it.
In an interview with the News & Mail the lead actors said that the audience know every word of the script and this was clear at this performance. Not only do they know when to shout out, but also show great antici… pation.
One of my favourite heckles, and probably one of the few I can repeat here, was when Riff Raff first meets Brad and Janet and says, “hello”. With perfect timing, one of the superfans shouted out “what is your favourite magazine?” just before Riff Raff speaks.
Whether you’re a superfan or not, the Rocky Horror Show is a theatre experience like no other.
It is transformative in so many ways and this production, from the cast through the stunning musicianship to the breathtaking scenery, is first class.
Don’t dream it – see it!
Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show is at the New Victoria Theatre (0844 871 7645) until Saturday 9 March, then in Belfast, followed by the Oxford New Theatre (0844 871 7645) from 25 to 30 March, the Mayflower Theatre Southampton from 8 to 13 April and the Churchill Theatre, Bromley from 15 to 20 April before moving around the UK and Ireland.
For the full tour details, visit https://www.rockyhorror.co.uk/tour-dates