The success of The Rocky Horror Show over the years has amazed many including its creator Richard O’Brien.
As O’Brien explains in his introduction to the 50th anniversary production: “Whatever it is about this work of decidedly low-brow, juvenility and populist themes that keeps toes tapping and audiences laughing is not easy to pin down.”
Watching audience reaction on the opening night of the 50th anniversary production at Melbourne’s Athenaeum Theatre, his description of the show would seem to be the reason for its success. Catchy songs, laugh out loud moments and an irreverent and often politically incorrect storyline are just as popular with audiences today as they were 50 years ago.
At the same time, given the nature of parts of the story and changing societal attitudes, it’s a little surprising there haven’t been some changes over the years.
Yet as O’Brien further explains: “The show is a parody of B movies and science fiction outings that come out of Hollywood to entertain the ‘ordinary folk’ of whom I was one.”
As is the case with previous shows this anniversary production is so `over the top’ it’s impossible to take it seriously, although again it’s probably not ideal for the prudish! But it is great fun, very colourful and features a very talented and enthusiastic cast.
Leading the way is Jason Donovan as Frank-N-Furter, the mad scientist and alien transvestite from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania.
From the moment Donovan presented his first song, Sweet Transvestite, he established a rapport with the audience thanks to his excellent comic, vocal and acting skills. His enthusiasm as he danced, sang, pouted, crooned and strutted through the show was infectious.
Deirdre Khoo and Ethan Jones also quickly won the audience over thanks to their convincing performances as the innocent young engaged couple Janet and Brad who, as a result of their car breaking down, fall under Frank-N-Furter’s corrupting influence. Both expertly showcased their musical and acting credentials.
Loredo Malcolm as Rocky, the ‘perfect man’ Frank-N-Furter was obsessed with creating, was another hit thanks to his on-stage presence.
Some of the biggest cheers on the night came for Henry Rollo as Riff Raff, Frank-N-Furter’s butler. His energetic and comical presentation of his lines and the iconic song The Time Warp with Stellar Perry (Magenta) and Darcey Eagle (Columbia) was one of the highlights of the show.
Perry was also an audience favourite thanks to her performance as both Magenta and the usherette singing another of the show’s iconic numbers Science Fiction. Ellis Dolan as Eddie/Dr Scott and Myf Warhurst as The Narrator also had their fans.
Supporting the leads were a talented group of singers and dancers and a five-piece band led by Jack Earle.
Precision choreography, imaginative and clever lighting and colourful costumes support the work of the cast thus ensuring this production of the high energy cult musical is as enjoyable and entertaining as its predecessors.
The Rocky Horror Show is playing at Melbourne’s Athenaeum Theatre until July 30. It’s then playing at Canberra’s Theatre Centre from September 29 and Crown Theatre Perth from August 6. Some cast changes are planned for future performances. For tickets and more information visit The Rocky Horror Show website.
*Photo credit: Daniel Boud.
Jenny Burns attended the opening night of The Rocky Horror Show as a guest of the producers.
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