Rocky’s Appeal Continues to Excite even after 40 years
Festival Theatre, Adelaide, December 31
Reviewed by Amy Donohue
The opening night of the new production of the popular cult classic musical The Rocky Horror Show, written by Richard O’Brien more than 40 years ago, did not disappoint. In fact, it was an absolute blast!
The set designer, Hugh Durrant, created an opening scene which consisted of a fantastical setting reminiscent of cartoon-like cardboard cut outs, which depicted a sense of innocence to the audience. This stage setting assisted Michelle Smitheram and Rob Mallet in successfully portraying the newly engaged, sickly sweet and naïve characters of Janet and Brad, which contrasted with the obscure and offbeat characters – that we have all come to know and love – present in the following scenes.
The stage was decorated with a large role of actual film to signify the fact that the most famous form of this iconic musical was The Rocky Horror Picture Show film which was released in 1975 and its still beloved today. This new Australian production is proud to pay homage to the celebrated cult film version.
During the song ‘Over At The Frankenstein’s House’, where Janet (Michelle Smitheram) and Brad (Rob Mallet) search for help, the setting was transformed by the Phantoms (Bianca Baykara, Ross Chisari, Hayley Martin and Stephen McDowell) into a dark and sinister setting, which foreshadowed the upcoming chaos. Janet and Brad come across Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter’s Castle in which they seek refuge from the rain. The master, however, is hosting a party which is the catalyst for a night that Janet and Brad will never forget.
The crazy, weird household puts on a spectacle for the new arrivals by singing the world-renowned song ‘The Time Warp’ that showcased Magenta’s (Amanda Harrison‘s) powerful voice and Columbia’s (Nadia Komazec’s) dazzling tap dancing skills.
Enter Craig McLachlan. The versatile McLachlan then made a dramatic entrance as Dr Frank-N-Furter in a skimpy Basque and fishnets, which gained various verbal responses from the audience, and were taken lightly in jest by McLachlan in his character. The cast accepted audience participation throughout, including Cameron Daddo as The Narrator who ad-libbed witty responses and repartee throughout.
As a collective the ensemble participated in a variety of dance routines that accompanied the main numbers. These numbers combined several dance styles including Rock ‘N’ Roll, Ballet, Burlesque and Jazz as well as specific moves reminiscent of the 70s. The simple movements choreographed by the world-respected Nathan M Wright were executed by the cast with energy and enthusiasm. Each cast member including Kristian Lavercombe (Riff Raff) and Brendan Irving (Rocky) sustained their characterisation superbly whilst dancing. Riff Raff kept his hunched and awkward stature and Rocky danced in a stiff and almost robotic manner. The ensemble throughout also used smooth and sharp movements in order to add suspense in the more dramatic scenes.
Christopher Luscombe’s direction was purposeful, bold, sexy and sassy; therefore the performance was well paced and gained a well deserved standing ovation.
The reprise of ‘The Time Warp’ engaged all audience members and got everyone involved in the well-known choreography with the Narrator’s (Cameron Daddo) instructional guide to assist. The complimentary feather boas that were given to the audience, allowed us to feel as though we were a part of the show and boosted everyone’s excitement.
Overall the performance was exciting and enticing. Although there was some audience participation throughout, the audience was relatively tame and did not bring any of the traditional props, eg. rice and newspapers, that is often used by Rocky Horror audiences. Highlights included ‘The Time Warp’ and the Burlesque scene, however, I expected more input from the audience, as the show is renowned for having wild audiences.
However, it was clear by the standing ovation and participation in the reprise that everyone thoroughly enjoyed the show.
Despite being New Years Eve, it was a full house, therefore showing the popularity of the musical. Craig McLachlan was clearly the star of the show; nevertheless the cast worked together in unison to create a wonderful production, which showcased each individual’s strengths. This performance was a brilliant way to enter the New Year – and I highly recommend taking in this 2018 version of Rocky Horror Show before it closes and you miss out on witnessing some of the best performances and guest appearances in this timeless, sassy musical.
CLICK HERE to read our interview with the Choreographer of The Rocky Horror Show Nathan Wright and how he keeps this cult show fresh and exciting on stage.