Review: Rocky Horror Show (Touring)

Monday 10th June 2019 at York Grand Opera House.


Rocky Horror Show isn’t your typical quirky musical. It’s a an unrelenting, unrestrained and uninhibited celebration of all that is weird, wild and whacky. It’s not concerned with many of the usual trappings of a big bold musical and is instead hell-bent on delivering one thing first and last: fun.

The show is the 1973 ‘bit of fun’ which began life as a naughty, grown-up ‘alternative pantomime’ fringe show according to writer O’Brien, speaking in 2018. But since those beginnings, the Rocky Horror show has become ‘the legendary rock and roll musical’ and it brings hoards of lifetime fans to the theatre dressed as their favourite characters. These crowds are so familiar with the script that they gleefully heckle-help the narrator. The show is more than simple entertainment, it is now, thanks to the cult film and many years touring, a fully immersive experience thanks to the buzz on and off stage.

The story is simple, shamelessly ridiculous and very well known: two repressed souls awkwardly dating, getting engaged and fighting their own desires end up with a broken down car and no hope of getting to where they’re going. They head for the nearest property and find themselves in something of an alternative universe full of madcap characters hissing mildly ominous nothings and staring for an overly long time. The property belongs to the ‘Mad Hatter’ type character of the land: Frank N Furter, a heavily sexualised cross dressing scientist who like to create lovers in his laboratory. When repressed meets total extrovert in this way, there’s plenty of ludicrous farce awaiting…

Director Christopher Luscombe brings out the best strengths in a thoroughly fabulous cast. Stephen Webb is our larger than life outrageous Frank N Furter, strutting his stuff with the hip bouncing prowess of a Victoria’s Secret model – but with far more winking and lip smacking. Webb has a winning fearlessness in the role and never misses a beat for a laugh or a moment of hyping up the shrieking adoration as he puts his suspenders and corset combination to work.

Joanne Clifton is FANTASTIC and steals the show here as Janet, bringing wide-eyed naivety and virginal lust to new heights with superb comic talent. James Darch is equally naive and dithering as Janet’s awkward but handsome fiancé Brad, gaining praise from the audience in his humorous half-dressed turns. Callum Evans is our brainless comedy fodder as Furter’s lust-conceived creation Rocky, all muscles and posing and surprising declarations played with beautiful vacancy by Evans.

Kristian Lavercombe is outstanding as Riff Raff, bringing all the best elements of horror or spoof horror minions to this one gloriously ridiculous character; he’s Lurch, he’s Thing, he’s Frankenstein’s monster and he’s the slithering Boogie Man combined. Laura Harrison is another notable comic and vocal talent as Magenta, the passionate vampirish maid and Lavercombe, Clifton and Harrison are the impressive vocalists of the show – in fact, Clifton is the best I’ve ever heard her here. Steve Punt has a tough gig which he seems to infinitely adore as the much heckled narrator. He handles the interruptions with sardonic flair, though in truth he does humour them a little too much and for just a tad too long each time. 

The Rocky Horror Show is loud and proud in both sights and sounds. Hugh Durrant’s set designs are over the top in scale and design (showcasing a little style over functionality at times, as is the case when the cast end up tangled in sparkly fringe curtains more than once), Nick Richings’ lighting is designed to bounce off the action to thrill and delight while Sue Blane’s costumes are the stuff of blossoming drag queen dreams. Nathan M Wright’s choreography is suitably angular and oddball with some more traditional slick numbers also getting a chance to shine amidst all the quirky otherness delivered by the ensemble of ‘phantoms’ and cast.

Best of all, there’s a sense of relish emanating from the entire cast and it’s so entertaining to see a show which parades around the cast’s enjoyment of the material they’re performing. The love for this show can be seen in the grinning faces and heard in the screaming appreciation of the audience throughout the show and if this production proves anything, it’s that the Rocky Horror Show is set to stay on our stages for a very long time to come, and rightly so – it’s cracking (and crackers) entertainment.

The Rocky Horror Show is presented by Howard Painter for Trafalgar Theatre Productions. It plays the Grand Opera House, York until June 15th 2019 and you can find tickets here. Following this stop, the tour continues until October 2019 and you can find information here. Note: despite the enticing glitter and glamour, this show is NOT for youngsters!

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