Review: Rocky Horror Show (2021-2022 Tour)

Monday 14th March 2022 at the Grand Opera House, York


Richard O’Brien’s whacky musical is back for more – and the audiences are as wildly grateful as ever. If you haven’t yet experienced the Rocky Horror Show on stage rather than screen, let me tell you: it’s an experience. Featuring cult classic songs like “Damn It, Janet”, “Sweet Transvestite” and “Time Warp”, this is a Rock’n’Roll musical in an alternate dimension of lusty “science”, bawdy bed-hopping and the emancipation of repressed earthlings… it’s a wild ride!

In case you’re new here, the plot follows innocents Brad and Janet: a pair of sweethearts who experience a little car trouble and end up at a remote “castle” seeking help… only to receive oh so much more than they bargained for. You see, they’ve stumbled upon something like another realm behind an eerie creaking door: this is the territory of Frank N Furter – a “sweet transvestite” scientist who is trying to create a perfect lover in his laboratory. Surrounded by oddballs and “phantoms” who do his bidding (and bedding, to be fair), Brad and Janet are soon in way over their chaste little heads.

This latest tour cast are fabulous. They bring the fantastical tale to life in all its bizarre glory while showcasing some impressive pipes, strong comic timing and a whole lot of infectious energy. Ore Oduba and Haley Flaherty (whose rendition of “Touch-a-Touch-a-Touch Me” is a real comic highlight) are a great pairing as Brad and Janet, balancing exaggerated naivety beautifully with later… developments.

Suzie McAdam is a brilliant Magenta – fearless and fun, with a powerful singing voice and a husky voice lowered suggestively at just the right comedic moments. McAdam is perfectly paired with Kristian Lavercombe too, whose record-setting 2000 performances with this show shine through in a polished, perfected performance as Riff Raff, head minion and award-worthy Creep of Creeps. Philip Franks keeps the punters in the palm of his hand with great skill as the Narrator, offering mini stand-up routines seemingly off the cuff in response to the affectionate heckling from die-hard fans – no easy feat, it has to be said.

And then of course there’s the iconic Frank N Furter front and centre, and Stephen Webb is a real force of nature here. Frank is a true certifiable eccentric with insatiable lust and a gluttony for adoration, and Webb captures that unique combination in his every move – there’s a confidence to the performance which not only commands the space and everyone in it for the duration, but it’s also just such good fun to watch.

Director Christopher Luscombe knows what the fans want, and when they want it; they want saucy madness and big laughs and they want them for the duration if you please. And the show delivers, with comic moments taken gleefully to their extremes and a winning combination of physical and scripted punchlines making for some top entertainment. Praise must also go to the finale which is incredibly generous in spirit as it not only repeats the most iconic songs, but has Frank’s grand entrance played over in full to really give people their money’s worth – something very appreciated if the deafening curtain call is anything to go by.

Sue Blane’s costume designs perfectly propel us from innocence to maturity and from the naive reality of earthlings to the “other” world of the castle while Hugh Durrant’s set pokes fun at the two dimensional nature of the “real world” and in turn celebrates the bold flamboyance of the world in which Frank N Furter gets his kicks. Nathan Wright’s choreography invites an additional layer of enjoyment in that it is sharp and lively and entertaining enough on stage but also accessible to the masses when it comes to the finale rendition of “Time Warp”. I do maintain though that for all its shiny winning qualities, it’s quite difficult to grasp an entirely coherent plot here (and the enthusiastic heckling from the audience, while getting some laughs, doesn’t help with clarity in places), particularly as we head towards our conclusion. But that’s not really what this show is about…

The Rocky Horror Show is about total abandon, having fun and being ridiculous and owning it in a way which is pretty irresistible. It is a law unto itself and once you’ve been swept up in the madness and fun of it all, neat plot lines matter relatively little – just sit back and enjoy the very entertaining ride!

The Rocky Horror Show 2021-2022 Tour is at the Grand Opera House, York until March 19th 2022 (tickets here), before touring until 19th November 2022 – you can find dates, venues and tickets here.

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