The Rocky Horror Picture Show - Athenaeum Theatre (VIC)
Book, music and lyrics by Richard O'Brien
Reviewed by Annika Loci
Until August 20th
- The Time Warp officially hits Melbourne and the production still manages to awaken the desires of audiences on its Australian tour -
Another musical revival? (Insert groans here). Currently the professional Australian theatre scene seems to be experiencing a saturation of revivals/ anniversary celebrations and encores of productions of which some should have been left alone to history. However, occasionally there are those that deserve to keep its heartbeat going and be celebrated. One such production became a cult classic and now is celebrating 50 years since eight actors and four musicians went out to have three weeks of fun at a fringe theatre event.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a parody musical that set out in the 1970s to celebrate the world’s fascination of B-grade science fiction movies, whilst embracing the sexual revolution. Richard O’Brien’s (Book, Music, Lyrics) production still has people flocking to the theatre so many years later excited to experience “another dimension, with voyeuristic intentions”. It’s raunchy, sexy, and sassy and with its 50th anniversary production directed by Christopher Luscombe is still delightfully hilarious and wonderfully camp.
Photos by Daniel Boud
For those only familiar with the movie (staring Tim Curry as the iconic Dr Frank n Furter) the stage production is slightly different, but full of everything that gives the movie its cult status. Audiences are encouraged to participate and to do call back lines in attempts to get the cast to break character, which makes every show unique, though very dependent on who’s in the audience. Opening night enjoyed a number of enthusiastic participants and devoted fans!
However I recommend you read the FAQs on the website about attending, especially if you are a “virgin” to a live Rocky Horror show.
Not much has changed over 50 years other than the addition of some modern-day technology which has only enhanced the Rocky experience. The bright illustrative look of Hugh Durrant’s set design combined with a film strip winding around the top of the stage together with Nick Richings 1970s colourful lighting design transports audiences back to the source material of 1960/70s monster, alien and science fiction movies, comics and music videos.
Led expertly by Music Director Jack Earle, the highly talented cast never skip a beat and bending their knees in perfect time to Nathan Wright’s dance in your seat choreography. It’s hard not to want to jump up and dance right along, however your chance to the “Time Warp” does come!
The Rocky Horror Picture Show opens with the song “Science Fiction” sung by the All-American movie Usherette introducing us to the themes of the show played by talented Stellar Perry. Perry grabs the audience’s attention from the first note, and is applauded for starting off a production that’s so well-known and has so much expectation so perfectly.
Henry Rollo joins Perry as the castle’s servants and alien siblings Riff Raff & Magenta. Leading the cast as the scene changed with a sensational performance of the highly anticipated Time Warp, both Rollo and Perry skillfully draw upon their performance experience with modern rock music with Rollo really bringing the extra essence of creepiness as Riff Raff.
O’Brien’s music and lyrics of Rocky Horror Show deserves to be celebrated as a production that helped pave the way for sexual freedom and acceptance.
Ethan Jones and Deirdee Khoo have nice chemistry as the wholesome virgin sweethearts Brad and Janet, who on a dark stormy evening stumble across a castle and end up taking part in the evening’s activities. Both use their musical theatre knowledge to their advantage, with Jones giving a highly enjoyable and endearing portrayal of the often vanilla role of Brad whilst Khoo nails the purposely over-acted and high pitch innocent voice of Janet.
Jason Donovan has put away his coloured coat and teen angel wings to come home, and has strapped on the corset, fishnets, and heels once again 25 years later as Dr Frank n Furter. Donovan has steered this role away from the extreme and highly sexual traits generally related with Frank and impressively more towards the charactertics of feeling like an outcast and freak. Donovan embraces more the quirks of “the mad scientist” role and bringing the expected sexual craving side of Frank out in more playful or intimate ways, whilst still providing plenty of unexpected hilarious moments.
One of the more distinctive aspects to Rocky Horror is the role of the Narrator, played by well-known radio and ABC personality Myf Warhurst. This is the role that links this production together. In this role, Warhurst clearly excelled when given the opportunity to go off script, engaging with audience members and controlling the room with ease. However, the other role of the Narrator is to push the story along, and this was where her scripted delivery fell somewhat flat. Overall Warhurst’s presence as the Narrator felt this flatness.
With a satisfyingly inclusive casting, a few lyric changes have been appropriately made. Jamaican born dancer & choreographer Loredo Malcom played Rocky, the (Frankestein-esq built) perfect man Frank has created for himself in his lab. With very limited dialogue (and clothing), Malcom is confident on stage and provides fabulous facial features and connection with fellow cast and creates great audience empathy for Rocky.
Rounding out this compelling cast is Darcey Eagle as Columbia, Ellis Dolan in the dual role of Eddie/Dr Scott, and supporting cast of Phantoms (Josh Gates, Catty Hamilton, Jackson Reedman, Erica Wild) all do a fabulous job of adding vocals, moving sets and are essential in creating the iconic “Rocky Horror” vibe.
Whether its live on stage, in a movie theatre or the privacy of your home, O’Brien’s music and lyrics of Rocky Horror Show deserves to be celebrated as a production that helped pave the way for sexual freedom and acceptance. This 50th Anniversary Australian cast brings limitless energy. Whether you’re a “virgin” or know every word, the much-loved iconic cult classic will have you proudly wearing you fishnets long after the Time Warp has ended.
Written and Created by Richard O'Brien
Director Christopher Luscombe
Set Designer Hugh Durrant
Costume Designer Sue Blane
Choreographer Nathan M Wright
Lighting Designer Nick Richings
Music Richard Hartley (original musical arrangements) T
he 50th Anniversary Rocky Horror Show is produced in Australia by Rocky Horror Company Ltd.
Jason Donovan as Frank N Furter, and Myf Warhurst as The Narrator. Joining them is Stellar Perry as Magenta, Ellis Dolan as Eddie/Dr Scott, Darcey Eagle as Columbia, Ethan Jones as Brad, Deirdre Khoo as Janet, Loredo Malcolm as Rocky and Henry Rollo as Riff Raff.
The Phantoms: Josh Gates, Catty Hamilton, Jackson Reedman and Erica Wild, Keane Fletcher and Kristina McNamara