Perhaps it’s Christopher Luscombe’s
direction, or maybe it is Nathan M Wright’s choreography. It
could be Hugh Durrant’s new set design, or just simply the
casting. Perhaps, as I suspect, it’s a combination of all of them,
but something has turned the 40th anniversary Rocky
Horror Show into a vibrant, fresh, energetic and –
above all – absolutely fantastic production.
As the curtain opens to reveal the
“wedding scene”, the first thing which we notice are the colours.
Gone is the dark metallic set; in its place are an almost
cartoon-like car and a huge American church which quickly morphs into
the “Frankenstein Place” after a flat tyre forces the events of
the evening to unfold.
Ben Forster, fresh from his success
in Jesus Christ Superstar, proves that he is an
incredibly versatile actor by delivering a breathtakingly nerdy
performance as Brad Majors. At the same time as he obviously relishes
the “geekiness” of the role, he also delivers faultless vocals
and his amazing version of "Once in a while" is
terrifically moving, with many in the audience feeling the
Brad’s girlfriend Janet Weiss is
played by Roxanne Pallett. She also delivers a faultless
performance as she transforms from sweet and innocent girl-next-door
into... well, let’s just say that she’s a girl with a lot of
love to give! One of the recipients of her enthusiastic advances is
Rhydian, who leaves his opera-singing X-Factor
days way behind him and replaces them with leopard skin Speedos,
bulging muscles and plenty of fake tan as Rocky.
With no weak link in sight, the other
stalwarts of the piece also deliver well, with Riff Raff Kristian
Lavercombe, Magenta Abigail Jaye, Columbia Ceris Hine and the
dual role of Eddie / Dr Scott Joel Montague all getting the chance
to show off their powerful vocals and unbounded enthusiasm throughout
the show. They each get their chance to deliver their signature
pieces, which they do with a combination of excitement and respect,
making the faithful fans in the audience go completely wild.
One of the most unpredictable roles in
the show has always been that of the Narrator. Often in the past
shared by a variety of celebrity performers, it now falls squarely on
the shoulders of Philip Franks to deal with the vast amount of
“heckling”. It must help him that most of the heckles are as
scripted as the show because, as they fly at him, he bats them away
with the skill of a first-class cricketer and returns to his role
with impeccable comic timing.
Following in some very hefty
stiletto-shod footprints is Oliver Thornton who, as Dr Frank 'N'
Furter, is enthusiastically welcomed to the stage with his signature
number, "Sweet transvestite". Tall and slim, clad
only in figure-hugging lingerie, he impresses with his crisp and
clear vocals, his ability to walk in perfectly massive heels and (how
can I put this tastefully?), (whether he is walking towards you or
away from you) his outstanding features! To a chorus of wolf-whistles
from most of the ladies, and a large number of the men, in the
audience he fixes his hair, swishes his cape, raises one eyebrow,
pouts with meticulous precision and really makes the role his own.
Rocky Horror has
always had a cult following but, with its incredibly high production
values leading the way, it is now more than ready to head round the
country and show a brand new audience that life really does begin at