No other musical can pull off carnival, lewdness and sensationalism like The Rocky Horror Show. This cult-favourite tale of aliens, horror and sexual awakenings is played out to the delicious soundtrack of B-movies and rock ‘n’ roll. It makes for a thunderously good time by default, yet director Christopher Luscombe still manages to raise it to another level. This latest version of Richard O’Brien’s musical is an extravaganza unlike anything else.
After their car breaks down, idyllic couple Brad and Janet (James Darch and Joanne Clifton) are forced to seek help from the residents of a creepy looking mansion in the middle of a forest. Once inside, they fall victim to the sensual charms of one Dr. Frank N. Furter (Duncan James) and the rest is history. The musical numbers are, of course, utter gems. They are all delivered with great style and gusto, preserving the pantomime edge that makes Rocky Horror such a wonder (the combination of this show and a vocal Scottish audience is unique, to say the least). Furter’s entrance, accompanied with a dazzling light display, whips the audience into a frenzy. From that point on, the atmosphere never lets up.
On a technical level, this latest version is outstanding. With an elaborate set and some phenomenal sound, the full rock ‘n’ roll horror experience is unleashed with glorious audacity. The vivacious lighting arrangements are dazzling and drape the entire show in glorious shades of colour. Accompanying almost everything is the killer soundtrack, and this never gets better than the marathon performance of “Rose Tint my World”, during which everything that makes Rocky Horror so bold and brilliant comes to a head.
James is a delight as Dr. Furter, his iconic lines delivered with seductive confidence and bravado. He lets in glimmers of the mad professor’s insecurity and weakness, but this never truly surfaces above his attitude and sexual drive. Far from making him two-dimensional, it reminds everyone why he has become a cult icon, and to see Furter brought to life in as grand a manner as this is wonderful. Perhaps the biggest laughs are saved for The Narrator (Philip Franks, having an absolute ball). Franks thrives off his responsibility to respond to audience jeering and encourages their participation, rewarding the crowd’s rowdiness with great humour and personality. Other standouts include Clifton as Janet, and Kristian Lavercombe’s joyously over-the-top take on Riff Raff.
A one-of-a-kind marvel, this is show-stopping entertainment that is hard to come by. With ravishing set design and featuring some great performances, Rocky Horror reinforces its place as a Halloween staple. O’Brien’s musical has lost none of its energy, charisma and identity even as it edges closer to 50 years old. You will leave the theatre grinning from ear to ear, already looking forward to the chance to do the time warp again.