Note: This review dates from 13 June 2006 and an earlier tour stop for this production.
The last time I saw Richard O'Brien's cult, camp classic musical it seemed to have lost its sex appeal and edgy sense of fun. Jonathan Wilkes' Frank 'N' Furter was funny but not predatory enough. Something was missing and the whole concept looked tired. This new touring production has definitely got its mojo back.
We all know the plot; clean-cut couple Brad and Janet find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere only to be welcomed by a fishnet-wearing transvestite and his bunch of cronies. Like something out of a fifties 'B' movie the plot has more holes than Frank's stockings. But when you have such unadulterated audience participation, outrageous costumes and classic songs, who cares?
The cast are all game and unlike previous productions immerse themselves in the sheer stupidity and freedom of O'Brien's wacky world. Suzanne Shaw is an excellent Janet. She imbues her innocence and embraces her new found sexual freedom. She sings up a storm too. Matthew Cole ably supports her as Brad. Nigel Planer makes a superb narrator dealing with every single heckler, even resorting to a Neil from The Young Ones flashback to placate them - and it works. Julian Essex-Spurrier has the crowd salivating, as his Rocky has muscles, great vocal delivery and a sense of wide eyed innocence.
What of Frank? Many have tackled this role but none have nailed it quite like this. David Bedella strides onto stage singing "Sweet Transvestite" like David Bowie at a home coming concert. He oozes sex appeal, plays the homoerotic angles to the hilt and flirts with the audience at every opportunity. Fresh from his success as the warm up man/devil in Jerry Springer The Opera this gifted actor puts the sex back into Rocky Horror and the supporting cast step up a gear as a result.
Of the songs, "Time Warp" is the one that they want; but each and every track is delivered with verve and gains fresh appeal here. At times the sound wavers and you struggle to hear the performers but the audience fill in the gaps enthusiastically.
The set may be as cheap as the gags but one thing is for sure, this show remains the most fun you will have donning a basque. After a rocky patch on tour, get out your stilettos and tights as this show is horrifically good.
- Glenn Meads (reviewed at the Opera House, Manchester).