Four decades ago, a new rock musical hit the scene. It's still going strong and this special 40th anniversary touring production of Richard O'Brien's iconic Forbidden Planet meets The Addams Family show is a welcome revival.
The plot manages to be simultaneously slight and convoluted. Innocents Brad and Janet stumble into the castle lair of Frank-N-Furter and his minions after getting a flat tyre during a thunderstorm. Weirdness, shenanigans, sci-fi and sexual enlightenment ensue. This is an adult show for an adult audience, although the sexual content which may have shocked a 1973 audience is now all just part of the fun and frolics.
Mention this show and you inevitably think of Tim Curry. So let's get that out of the way: Tim Curry is the definitive Frank-N-Furter. Oliver Thornton wisely doesn't attempt any sort of Curry-homage. Instead he plays Frank as mischievous rather than menacing, an interesting take on the character which doesn't entirely work, jarring with the character's more evil actions. In places, Thornton's voice wavers but he prowls around the stage with delicious over-the-top camp on legs to die for.
Ben Forster is a revelation (and almost unrecognisable) as Brad. The former Jesus's voice sounds great, much better than in his previous role and he gives Brad a strong-but-nerdy quality. Roxanne Pallett (Emmerdale) is suitably innocent and squeaky as Janet. Riff Raff (played with gusto by Kristian Lavercombe) is the creepy sidekick, the Caliban to Frank's Prospero. Rhydian (We Will Rock You, Grease) has muscles on his muscles as Rocky and his voice is strong and note perfect.
Most surprisingly of all, Philip Franks as the Narrator is a joy. Decked out in crushed velvet dinner jacket, his charmingly laconic delivery and witty off-the-cuff ripostes to audience shout-outs are a masterclass in comic timing. He earned one of the stars all on his own.
As this is a touring production, there's a cut-down ensemble and the group numbers suffer slightly as a result. The excellent band might not have sounded quite so overwhelming at times with more voices, but this is rock, so it's loud. Very loud.
Good to see that Rocky Horror is as broad, funny and fun as it's always been. Put on your gold hotpants and do the Time Warp again.