In the final interview to celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Rocky Horror Show, its director Christopher Luscombe talks about the responsibility of reviving the show at such a special time and about the diverse and unusual cast with whom he is working.

The last time we spoke you were dealing with an altogether different piece, Blue/ Orange
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I know, isn’t that extraordinary. Well, I suppose I’m nothing if not versatile!

And now, not for the first time, you’re doing something a little more bizarre. How are you feeling about it?
It’s doing really well and we’re having a lot of fun. I last directed Rocky Horror in 2006 and the production that I did then ran round the country for about 18 months and then went into the West End, and three years later it surfaced again, toured again, and, as a result, I’ve lived with the show for a long time.

But this has really been so exciting because it’s a brand-new production – new design, new choreography and a new cast. I’m such a fan of the piece and I love working on it and to be doing that with lots of new people, who are having the excitement of discovering it for themselves, is just brilliant and we’re having a lot of fun.

It’s the people that I’d like to talk to you about next, because what kind of a mind puts together a cast like this, to be in Rocky Horror? 

What is it you’re suggesting? (CL laughs)

Well you have Jesus as Brad, Jo Sugden from Emmerdale jumping on any man she can get, opera singer Rhydian running round in leopard skin pants and Oliver Thornton back in stilettos, but naughtier than ever!

You know, the casting was a very long process which I did with the casting director who has, like me, worked on Rocky for a long time. We just sort-of thought: let's start right from scratch, see who is out there and set about trying to create the most interesting line-up. It’s always good to have people who have a profile – we need to have a hook to give the legions of fans something to get excited about – and, I thought, that it all came together rather magically.

I honestly thought that we would never get all these people, I’m always pessimistic, but it just so happened that they were all available and very keen to do it. Rhydian, when he came to audition, just said, “I just love the show, I really want to be in it, I don’t mind who I play, I just want to be a part of it”. We knew, of course, that he had a great voice but we didn’t know that he had the most amazing body to go with it and so he just seemed like the perfect fit for the part of Rocky. It was almost a bit like it was too good to be true really.

It’s also great to have Jesus in fishnets and I think that all of the cast complement each other so well really. They all have their own particular fan-bases as well, so it means that we are reaching out to a lot of people who perhaps wouldn’t have come just to see Rocky Horror, but their also coming to see their favourite stars in it. I always want to cast it full of character actors because, I believe, the real joy of Rocky is the personalities of the characters and, while I won’t call them eccentric, as that sounds a little unkind, they are all full of personality and they’re all getting on very well together.

I think even the die-hard Rocky fans are being pleasantly shocked by all the tremendously talented stars you have included, and by the way some of the scenes have been updated.
I hope so, as I always want the show to have a shocking element to it. When it was first done back in 1973, I think a lot of elements in it would have been quite shocking for an audience. It was very provocative as a piece but we’ve come such a long way now that a lot of things that were taboo back then are no longer taboo, but I do try and “push the boundaries” in other ways to keep an element of shock in it. I think it should be there and I hope we’re achieving that.

Is the show still Richard’s original work, with all the songs we know and love?
There are always little tweaks that take place with the orchestration, or the arrangement, and the script itself has been “tweaked” by Richard over the years too, so there’s always something new to spot. There are many, slightly different, versions of the show – I’m talking about the fine detail here – but the musical director might come over with the score and ask if we are using the 1973 version, or the 1980 version, or any of the others that have had little tweaks done. So, it’s quite fun as we get to make choices all the time.

Sometimes the fans get in touch before we launch a new tour and they say “You’re not changing it are you?” and no, we’re not. There are no new songs or wildly different lyrics or anything like that; it’s just the odd little detail. Everything that we have done has been with Richard’s blessing, he’s been in and met the cast and talked about the piece and he was there, at Brighton, when we opened. He’s been just wonderful, so supportive, he doesn’t interfere but he’s always there if I have a question for him. He loves talking about the show, he’s never resistant to having that conversation and he’s been very helpful.

The Rocky Horror Show tours with confirmed dates until 20 July and new dates just announced from 16 September onwards.