Imagine it’s 1975 and a musical drawing inspiration from Sci-fi B movies with a transvestite lead character is born and is an unlikely hit. Ok, In fact, it’s not a hit at all, not initially anyway, cult satus comes later.
Now imagine shouting ‘Show us your balls’ to a sweetheart of The Darling Buds of May, yet today it’s perfectly normal, in fact it’s expected. Welcome to the wild world of Rocky Horror, and the very reason I drove 80 miles home to review it when I was away.
Weirdly Rocky Horror seems to improve with age in some ways, and yet competing with the original film version is no easy task.
Do you do your own interpretation? Hard when the original is so iconic. I’ve actually lost count of the times I’ve seen the show. The film countless times. The live production in many guises. So how does this latest interpretation fair?
It’s not the first time I’ve seen the show from this particular production company. Being a bit of a Rocky Horror fan/anal connoisseur. I want to say that the production and set from the 90’s Bill Kenwright production was a better one I’ve seen, but let’s not dwell on that.
It is hard though not to draw comparisons when we’re talking about something so now well known. If you know the show at all then you’re more than likely familiar with the film version starring creator, Richard O’Brien, who Rocky fans consider somewhat of a genius, this is before we get on to Tim Curry who made the character of Frank n Furter his own.
Pursuing an acting career, a young Tim Curry pretty disassociated himself from the role for a while, only to enjoy delayed adulation in the following years. Anyone taking on the role of Frank has some very high-heeled shoes to fill.
I’m torn on Stephen Webbs’s performance. As an actor in a musical, it’s faultless, BUT Rocky Horror has many die-hard fans, so does he live up to the Tim Curry performance – should an actor?
In the moves and the mannerisms -yes, he has the body, and there’s nothing wrong with his vocal ability, however, the vocal nuances aren’t there. I’m guessing it’s deliberate as they’re not difficult to emulate. Am I being picky? Argh, maybe, but it’s one of those shows where the character is so well known you almost expect it to be played in a particular way. Sorry. The facial expressions are there, the body movements – just not the voice. That’s not to say there’s an issue with his voice. He’s a fine performer and has the masculine side of Frank nailed.
Let’s talk then about Ore Aduba, billed as the star of the show following his win on ‘Strictly’. I was pleasantly surprised. Not appearing to be from a musical theatre background, the guy can hold a tune, and his performance as Brad Majors was pretty good.
The rest of the cast then saw Kristian Lavercomb reprise his role as Riff Raff, one which he has played for over 1800 performances, more than anyone else in its history. I know I’ve seen him at least 3 times in the role made famous by creator Richard O’Brien. He plays it slightly differently, more lurching and less urchin, but in fine voice.
Haley Flaherty makes a fine Janet in the role made famous by Susan Sarandon, and there’s great casting with Lauren Ingram as Columbia and Suzie McAdam as Magenta/Usherette.
A role that has gained momentum over the years is that of the narrator. Philip Franks, has it seems, become a seasoned pro at it, adding in topical and local ad-libs, as well as being ready and unfazed by the expected audience heckles in a role that can make or break the show.
It was a travesty the theatre wasn’t full, but I put that down to the lasting effects of COVID. Those that were there dressed up and had a bloody good time, however, albeit I’ve seen livelier audiences.
It was a great performance. Not the best I’ve seen, but I’d still drive 80 miles to see it every day, and I can’t think of another musical I’d do that for.. another show…anything to be exact.
Don’t think about it – SEE IT.
Rocky Horror runs at The Royal Concert Hall Nottingham until 15 August – BOOK HERE
By Tanya Louise