There are few other shows so beloved or so enduring as the Rocky Horror Show. It’s a summer Monday evening and the theatre is packed from floor to rafters with fans clad in their best Columbia, Magenta, Rocky, Brad, Janet and even a few Frank N. Furter costumes for the latest tour of this nearly 50-year-old show.
The audience is in full-on participation mode and the excitement before curtain up is tangible. The second the Usherette (a fabulous Laura Harrison, who also doubles up as Magenta) steps onstage, the audience is raring to go. Every infamous call back is on cue, every moment for joining in is taken – this is a crowd that knows every word and every step to every song and is here to enjoy the night to the fullest.
There are many reasons why Rocky Horror has been performed almost continuously since its creation in 1973 – the big hits come thick and fast, the dialogue is cheeky and cheesy in equal measure, it never takes itself seriously, but the talent and commitment of the cast and the quality of Richard O’Brien’s genius writing means that under the 1950s B-Movie veneer, this is a show of quality.
Boy band royalty, Blue’s Duncan James steps into Frank’s glittered platforms and satin corset and boy does he give it his all. From entrance to exit he looks like he’s living his best life and judging from the ear-splitting reception from the audience they are loving every minute along with him. James is ably supported by dance royalty Joanne Clifton, who again demonstrates how multi-talented she is, singing and acting as Janet and there’s strong support from a fine-sounding James Darch as Brad. While Rocky Horror veteran and fan-favourite Kristian Lavercombe is indisposed tonight, his understudy Andrew Ahern is a revelation as Riff Raff and Philip Franks, arguably one of the finest narrators in the world of Rocky Horror, returns.
There are few shows that pack more entertainment into two hours, and few that stand up to repeat viewing like Rocky Horror. Hands-down one of the best musicals of all time and with this first-rate cast, it would be a crime to miss it.
Runs until 17 August 2019 | Image: Contributed
This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub
What made you say yes to playing Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Show?
It’s been a dream role of mine for a long time. I heard they were doing The Rocky Horror Show and I think Frank-N-Furter is one of the best roles you can play in musical theatre. It’s such an iconic role and the show has such a loyal following. It’s such a wonderfully written show and I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be great to play Frank?’ I rang my agent and said: ‘I hear they’re casting The Rocky Horror Show can you get me an audition?’ He did and so I went in, did the audition and got a recall. When I went back, I said to myself ‘I’m gonna get this’ and I did. I was really lucky because I fought off lots of competition from other well-known actors who were up for the part. I was like ‘No, no, no, this is my part!’ so when I got it, I was really proud of myself.
Everything! And of course, he has one of the best entrances in musical theatre. The reaction you get from his opening number Sweet Transvestite is amazing because it’s such a great song and you come out in a cloak, then take the cloak off to reveal his really out-there outfit. It’s a great moment.
Can you relate to him in any way?
For me it’s more about having fun rather than relatability. The part of Frank-N-Furter is so twisted and so dark and that’s such fun to play. I mean, he’s essentially a psychopathic doctor who wants to create a man for his own pleasure and he’ll kill whoever gets in his way. Coming from Hollyoaks where I got to play a serial killer I thought it’d be great to then go and play Frank – to explore that dark, twisted mind again of someone who is living on the edge, someone who isn’t afraid to do what he has to do to get what he wants. That kind of character is really fun to play.
Credit : Johan Persson
Presumably with this role you’re very comfortable in heels?
I am, yes, and I love getting dressed up every night, putting on the corset, the fishnets and heels. It’s such an empowering moment because when I walk out on that stage, I feel huge compared to the other cast members. I feel like I’m towering above everybody and instantly I get that sense of command that Frank has. [Laughs] And of course I’m not shy so I love strutting round. I’m really embracing it. Also, I have a bit of a fascination with drag queens and drag artists. I’ve become a huge fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s like my number one guilty pleasure. I cannot miss an episode of any of RuPaul’s stuff.
Do you do much ad-libbing in response to the audience shout-outs?
There’s none of that from me. The only person who’s allowed to do that is The Narrator. They are the only ones who get to heckle back. I can do an eyebrow raise or a little smirk because, apart from The Narrator, Frank is the only one who’s allowed to acknowledge the audience.
What sort of shout-outs have you had so far?
There’s a lot of rude stuff and I got to do a scene in bed with Ben Adams from A1 when he was in the show. So it’s two boyband members in a bed, which is quite funny and prompts quite a few amusing shout-outs.
Why do you think The Rocky Horror Show has endured?
I think it’s down to the genius of Richard O’Brien. He created The Rocky Horror Show back in the 70s when it was really taboo to talk about certain subjects and having a man dressed up as a transvestite was unheard of. It was like ‘What on earth is this Tim Curry guy doing?’ It was banned in some countries because they thought it was completely wrong and it had a tough start because a lot of people didn’t know how to take it. A lot of people found it in bad taste but that was a sign of the times, of course. As attitudes towards sexuality, sex and transgender issues have changed we’ve become a lot more open-minded and liberal, haven’t we? It’s fantastic that we now embrace shows like The Rocky Horror Show. It’s great that this show in particular has stood the test of time. It seems to be getting bigger and bigger, with more and more people getting dressed up to come see it as well as knowing the story and shout-outs. The show gains more and more fans every time it goes out on tour.
When it comes to musical theatre, what have been your favourite roles?
I’m really lucky that I’ve gotten to do so many great shows. I loved playing Billy Flynn in Chicago. That’s a great role and I was lucky enough to play him again in the West End revival last year. I got to work with Alexandra Burke, who I adore, and we had great chemistry together. I loved playing Tick in Priscilla because it’s one of the most incredible, most liberating roles. Me having a child and being a gay man, I really related to the character. And The Rocky Horror Show is really good fun. It’s one of those shows where you get on stage every night and just have a really good time. It doesn’t feel like having to go to work and the audiences love it. The music is great, Frank’s words are so delicious and the way the story is told is just brilliant. I’m living my best life right now.
Definitely. As long as people want to come see us there’ll always be Blue. We’re very lucky that we get to travel all over the world. We get to play sold-out arenas wherever we go and we get to have these amazing trips away. We were in Bahrain recently then we went to Singapore and Malaysia, which was wonderful – to be able to travel to these countries with my friends and get up on stage and sing songs that everybody knows.
When it comes to theatre, do you have any pre- or post-show rituals?
This show consumes quite a lot of preparation with the make-up, the wig and everything. I have my little routine of doing my make-up, getting the wig put on, getting into the costume and then I’m on stage. There’s not a lot of time to think or prepare. After a show I take it all off then spend up to an hour at the stage door signing stuff and having pictures with everybody. There are always so many people at the stage door, which is lovely and I always want to make sure to give time to everybody. By the time I get home after that it’s like 11.30pm and I’m knackered.
What’s the one thing you couldn’t be on tour without?
My pillow goes everywhere with me. I cannot sleep in a hotel room without it because I can’t stand those horrible synthetic pillows you usually get. I have a proper old-school, feathered, heavy pillow which goes with me everywhere.
You’re bringing the show to the King’s Theatre, Glasgow. Does it have any significance for you?
Me and the Blue boys performed in Glasgow when we were on tour with Wet Wet Wet and we were the first act to ever play in their brand-new arena, which was great. The audiences were great too. I do find that the further north you go the rowdier they get.
The Rocky Horror show is coming to the Kings Theatre August 12 – August 17 2019 starring Duncan James (Blue) and Joanne Clifton (Strictly Come Dancing).
1973 may be remembered for many things: the year VAT was introduced; Britain joined the EEC; the three day week came into force; Princess Anne married Captain Mark Phillips and a young, out of work New Zealand actor wrote The Rocky Horror Show.
Richard O’Brien’s groundbreaking work represented a seismic shift in the musicals of the day and went from the tiny space that is Upstairs at the Royal Court to cult movie, to seemingly endless productions and tours around the world. It’s even spawned its own subculture where fans dress up, dance and throw out carefully orchestrated heckles. Not bad for a 43-year-old story about a transsexual alien with Dr. Frankenstein aspirations.
The plot is utterly nonsensical, but none of that matters, this is more of a theatrical ‘experience’, either full-on participatory involvement or as an amused (or bemused) on-looker. Paying homage to the science fiction, schlock-horror B-movies of the 50s, young lovers Brad and Janet are on their way to visit their old science tutor with news of their engagement when their car breaks down. Walking through the torrential rain they stumble upon a strange old castle where they meet a highly unusual set of residents…
This has always, and continues to be, an audience pleaser where anything goes. When the first notes ofThe Time Warp ring out, the entire auditorium leaps to its feet, the feather boas fly and the enthusiastic pelvic thrusting of the row in front begins. There’s the people watching too, how many Franks, Columbias and Magentas can you spot? Did I really see a grandpa in a basque?
The set is as ropey as its B-movie inspiration, so much of the success of any production lies in its cast. Liam Tamne certainly has the pipes, as evidenced by his show-stopping turns in Les Mis and Phantom, but doesn’t get to showcase them here until the ballads. His is a little cruder than the usual urbane Frank, but he certainly looks the part. Shining bright vocally is Richard Meek (Brad), who has the most beautifully toned and modulated voice. Kristian Lavercombe still steals every scene he’s in as Riff Raff, and retains an admirable enthusiasm for a role he’s played over a thousand times. Mention must be made of former S Club Seven singer Paul Cattermole, who acquits himself surprisingly well as Dr. Scott/Eddie and Dominic Anderson’s Rocky actually manages to make an impression beyond the muscles and teeny tiny pants. Faring less well is X Factor alumni Diana Vickers (Janet), as wooden as the set, she has an annoying nasal whine which grates throughout.
Salacious, silly, frisky and risqué, The Rocky Horror Show still has the power to thoroughly entertain and long may it continue.
Runs until Saturday 13 August 2016 | Image: Contributed
This article was originally written for and published by The Reviews Hub
There are few shows with quite the same level of audience devotion as The Rocky Horror Show, and forty years later I’m happy to report that the madness is still well and truly alive: with the audience providing as much spectacle as the show, it really is a night out at the theatre without comparison.
The B-Movie pastiche storyline stands the test of time and is as appealing as ever. The music here though is the highlight – I defy anyone not to sing along to Sweet Transvestite, Hot Patootie and of course, The Time Warp. The whole thing is infused with such fun that you can’t fail to be carried away on the magnificent, mad roller coaster.
ITV Superstar winner Ben Forster (Brad) and Roxanne Pallet (Janet) both deftly manage the transition from virginal couple to depraved disciples of Frank, and both have the chance to showcase their fine voices which more than match the pulsating band. Stage and TV veteran Philip Franks as The Narrator turns in a genuinely witty performance, fully embracing the camp madness of it all – adeptly fending off the very vocal asides of the Glasgow crowd both scripted and unscripted. Rhydian Roberts is the titular Rocky and its more his pectoral muscles that are on show rather than his vocal ones here, but he carries it off the role with sufficient skill. Kristian Lavercombe as Riff Raff is a revelation, coming closest to embodying the spirit of the show’s original creator Richard O’Brien than you’re likely to see, and with his powerful voice, he seems destined for great things.
Rightfully though, the show belongs to Frank. Indelibly printed on everyone’s mind is Tim Curry’s seminal performance in the movie, and as Frank n Furter, Oliver Thornton does a rare thing indeed, in bringing us a rather different Frank, never indulging in all out camp or over the the top hamming, rather managing to convey both a more tender side to the character and an ever more mercurial one at the same time. His attraction and menace are skilfully portrayed by Thornton. He also looks so utterly stunning that it’s impossible to tear your eyes away from him when he’s on stage. Every eyebrow raised or lick of the lips is met with roars of approval by the crowd. A sublime performance from Thornton, the definitive Frank for a new generation.
True to its low budget B-Movie roots the set is always a little ropey, but the clever lighting and staging all add to the fun. This is the best night of escapism you are ever likely to find. The ear-splitting screams of approval from the audience at the end are enough to tell you that.
Due to demand the show will return in August. I urge you – get a ticket now!