The Rocky Horror Picture Show - Sydney Theatre Royal (NSW)
Written and created by Richard O’Brien. Presented during Sydney WorldPride.
Reviewed by Justin Clarke
Theatre Royal, Sydney Until Sunday April 1st
- After 50 years, Rocky Horror is still sexy and funny as ever, making for more than a fun night at the theatre -
If you rock up to The Rocky Horror Picture Show in Sydney, Melbourne or Adelaide wearing a suit and tie, do not be alarmed if someone comes to ask if you are a virgin. This is nothing to do with your sexual proclivities, but more that you may have thought you were attending an operatic drama instead of the raunchy, quirky and wildly freeing experience of Richard O’Brien’s classic.
In a recent review, I discussed the relevancy of a musical that is still running over half a century since its inception. I find myself in the unique position to again be commenting on a musical that is celebrating its 50th Anniversary. Like the aforementioned musical with its many, many colours, Rocky Horror has become an institution in the musical theatre world. Unlike it however, Rocky Horror brings an abundance of pleasure, be it sexual or time warping, to prove yet again why audiences can’t get enough of it.
From the first time Tim Curry strutted his way on the screen in ‘Sweet Transvestite’ as the incomparable Frank ’N’ Furter, audiences have made Rocky Horror a cult classic. The beauty of the stage show is that in its long run, there hasn’t been much that has changed about it, and that’s the way we like it - which is perhaps why the Rocky Horror Live broadcast in 2016 was an arguable flop. Rocky Horror has always been for the outcasts and for those wanting to find themselves - so, if it ain’t broke...
Photo Credit: Daniel Boud
With Sydney WorldPride happening during the show’s early run, I found the show’s themes powerfully resonant. Its notions of sexual awakening, being true to yourself and revelling in being weird and wonderful were at the forefront of the evening with audience members donning Frank ‘N’ Furter outfits, stripping down into golden underwear and jumping at the chance to do the Time Warp again.
Exchanging his coat of many colours for heels and fishnets, Jason Donovan takes on the mantle of Frank ‘N’ Furter. With a heft of humour and an alluring grin, Donavan brings a depth and weight to Frank ’N’ Furter throughout, sacrificing some of the more improvised elements in its place. Donovon does however test his comic chops by throwing around one liners, teasing the audience and keeping his co-stars on their toes. Any anxiety I felt towards whether Donovan’s deep voice would be able to hold Frank’s song was quickly blown out, with ‘Don’t Dream It — Be It’ and ‘I’m Going Home’ being the standout numbers of the show.
I will say, this production of Rocky Horror boasts some of the most diverse casting of the show I’ve seen. As the farcical lovers, Brad (Ethan Jones) and Janet (Deirdre Khoo) the pair bounce off well from one another, with their highlights being their rather crude sexual interactions with Frank in Act Two. Khoo outshines her counterpart in most scenes, constantly reacting and over-reacting, feeding off the energy of her co-stars. The eponymous Rocky with “dark hair and a tan” played by Loredo Malcolm brought Rocky’s innocent nature with physical feats that made you swoon, but could have amplified it further to reflect his discovery at all the zany antics he uncovers.
The brother and sister duo, Magenta (Stellar Perry) and Riff Raff (Henry Rollo) were a true highlight for me. They are perhaps the two characters who get to have some of the most fun on stage, especially as they lead the crowd favourite, ‘Time Warp’. Rollo felt like he’d been playing Riff Raff for years, whilst Perry showed sheer control of the stage using her immense presence throughout.
Ellis Dolan and Darcey Eagle as Eddie/Dr. Scott and Columbia revel in their spotlight moments, with Eagle bringing the show to a halt when she finally stands up to Frank ‘N’ Furter’s constant manipulation.
Whether you’re a virgin, or you know every move and line uttered by Frank ‘N’ Furter himself, there is much pleasure to be had at this party.
Surprisingly this production’s weakest moment is in its star cameo role, The Narrator, here played by Myf Warhurst. Not holding much stage presence and gravitas, the use of her Australian accent seemed extremely jarring to the rest of the show. I will say that props have to go to Warhurst for bouncing back at some audience participation with grace and producing a fit of laughter from the audience.
Hugh Durrant’s set design holds a unique playfulness to the whole production. A film strip that loops around the top of the stage houses the band and ties into the show’s use of intertextuality with classic movie monster and sci-fi films. The swivelling set changes mixed with Nick Richings laser beam lighting design brought sharp bursts of colour, spots and rotating jets to really illuminate each number. For the opening night, Richard Hartley’s music was amplified through the theatre’s bass, with the noise levels turned up enough to really encapsulate you in the show. After all, the music is one half of the selling point next to whoever plays Frank. If the person next to you is humming along or seat-dancing to at least one song, then you’ve done the show a misjustice.
Whether you’re a virgin, or you know every move and line uttered by Frank ‘N’ Furter himself, there is much pleasure to be had at this party. Strip down, wear your most outrageous frocks, stretch those muscles for the ‘Time Warp’ and treat yourself to a damn good amount of fun. My key tip, theatre etiquette is slightly warped (pun intended) with this show, get up and dance when you feel it!
P.S: For those of you seeing the show in Adelaide, don’t be upset you won’t have Donovan as Frank ‘N’ Furter because David Bedella is a-MAZE-zing in the role. Don’t believe me? Go find the recorded anniversary production and see for yourself.
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) The 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