Since the original show was spawned in 1973 the ‘Rocky Horror Show’ has gained generations of theatregoers who have been seduced by its mix of horror-comedy and science-fiction script, backed with some iconic songs such as ‘The Time Warp’ whilst dressed up in glittering corsets and eye-catching lingerie has become an institution that encourages glamour, silliness and having a damn good time.
It is hard to believe that this show is nearly half a century old as it has absolutely no signs of ageing as it continues to entice the old and the youth of today through its doors with its bright, bold and extremely risqué script that bursts into life from the beginning through to the finale.
I remember my first viewing as a teenager in the 1980’s with my mum and grandmother and I was mortified with embarrassment but equally excited and enchanted by the risqué scenes before my very eyes. I decided to repeat the cycle and brought my 14-year-old daughter as my buddy reviewer to see if the show captivated the youth of today.
Despite it being a cold and foggy January night, it came as no surprise to see ladies in the audience dressed in French maid outfits, glittery top hats and dazzling tailcoats whilst the Manchester chaps were tightly packed into their Fran N. Furter attire amid the sea of black clothing, high heels and wigs.
If you are a Rocky Horror Virgin (it’s hard to believe that there is an adult Rocky virgin) and don’t know the story then here’s a brief synopsis; newly engaged high school sweethearts Brad Majors (Ore Oduba) and his straight-laced fiancée Janet Weiss (Hayley Flaherty) are on their way to visit their old science teacher Dr Scott (Joe Allen) are struck with a flat tyre during a storm at night on a dark unlit road in the middle of nowhere; the only thing in sight is a light shining in the distance from a strange looking castle and obviously they decide to go over and knock on the door to ask for help and here is where they meet Frank-N-Further’(Stephen Webb), his butler Riff Raff (Kristian Lavercombe), Magenta (Suzie McAdam), Columba (Lauren Ingram) and a household of wild characters. Innocence is lost and Frank N Furter’s castle provides a place for self-expression and a new creation ‘Rocky’ (Ben Westhead) a stunning muscular man with blonde hair and a tan is made in just seven days and in his seven hours post birth is chased by a transvestite, witnesses a murder, has sex and is invaded by an alien takeover.
With the fabulous original musical arrangement by Richard Hartley the audience is provided with classics such as ‘Over at the Frankenstein Place’, ‘Sweet Transvestite’, ‘Touch-a-Touch-a-Touch-a-Touch me’ and many more. The audience participation in this show is what keeps the culture alive and has people returning time after time during its tours, you’ll be up on your feet gyrating to the time warp and will no doubt witness or indeed participate in the well-rehearsed adlib dialogue contributions hurled towards the stage during the show which is extremely X-rated.
Director Christopher Luscombe has yet again done a magnificent job in creating the 2022 version of this sassy, sexy and sensational show whilst Casting Director Stuart Burt has repeatedly provided us with another perfect cast (some old and some new) of these iconic larger than life characters making it a must-see show.
The ‘Rocky Horror Show’ is a tongue in cheek production, and it can be hard to appreciate the talent before your very eyes as the audience seems more interested in their timely interjections and favourite songs, but Ore Oduba’s vocals were impeccable his talent clearly shone through the bravado of the character.
Another talented performer was Suzie McAdam as Magenta and the Usherette who wowed the audience with her awe-inspiring phenomenal vocals as she effortlessly belted out ‘Science Fiction – Double Feature’ at the start and the final scene.
Credit also goes to Kristian Lavercombe as Riff Raff, Lauren Ingram as Columbia, Ben Westhead as Rocky with his remarkable physique and spectacular gymnastic feats, narrated throughout by Philip Franks all complementing the leads perfectly.
I have reviewed Stephen Webb perform as Frank N Furter in 2019 and was wowed at that time time by his sassy sexy appeal in the role, but tonight however, I did not feel his lustre for the role, I found his interpretation quite flat and tiresome and wondered if the light had gone out in his performance of such an iconic character.
The star of the show for me personally was the refreshing Philip Franks with his narration and timely adlibs throughout the evening. The role is perfect for Franks and I enjoyed every moment he was on stage as previously many Narrators have failed to engage or maintain my attention during their delivery.
Hugh Durrant’s set design was fresh and exciting with its reel of film unspooling above the stage which cleverly housed the band, his Hammer Horror gore-infused Gothic interiors with its red themes and monochrome laboratory all created a distinctive and dynamic acting space for the cast.
The lighting design by Nick Richings enriched the scenes with the use of creative colourful lighting over the stage with its effective trickery, lightning bolts and laser beams.
Sue Blane’s costume design ensured the stage was full of sexiness, sassiness, glitz and glamour whilst true to form contrasting with Brad and Janet’s vintage formal wear.
Nathan M Wright brings the high-energy score to life with his sensational choreography for the cast as they all appear to be having fun as they oscillate rhythmically following the set sequence of steps whilst singing the catchy lyrics of the show.
The Rocky Horror Show continues to be a crowd pleaser mixing everything a musical offers combined with sexiness, naughtiness and damn good entertainment.
Well done to the cast and crew of 2022 tour which continues through the year in various locations in the UK.
Verdict: Rocky Horror is a rite of passage that everyone should see at least once in their lives. I completed the cycle and introduce my daughter to the world of ‘Rocky Horror’ as I was by my elders, here’s hoping that my daughter will do the same in years to come as I have no doubt that this show will remain strong for many more decades.
The Rocky Horror Show continues at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until Saturday 22nd January https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/the-rocky-horror-show/palace-theatre-manchester/
Reviewer: Katie Leicester
Reviewed: 17th January 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★