15
Jan
14

Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show

 

The Rock n Roll Musical

Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show

Ambassador Theatre Group & John Frost

QPAC Lyric Theatre

January 10 – February 9 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

#openingnightstyle

LBD from The Vault, Levante fishnets, Siren stilettos and Salita Matthews Annapurna necklace

 

“It’s a party!” Tim Maddren

 

“You could not fit another punter in with a tub of vaseline and a shoe horn.” Craig McLachlan

 

“You can feel it in the audience…They just go apeshit!” Richard O’Brien

 

Rocky Horror Show. Image by Jeff Busby.

 

Christopher Luscombe’s 40th Anniversary production of Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show is a good deal more conservative than expected but this doesn’t make it any less naughty, or any less fun!

 

If you need to read this review go ahead, but if you trust me, and a six-minute full house standing ovation cum moshpit on opening night, you’ll follow this link and book now for the Rocky Horror Show, running for just 5 weeks at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre. Whether or not you love this show (it’s crazy, ridiculously so, without much of a plot and really, it’s pretty clunky), you have to admire the savvy confidence of producers, John Frost and Howard Panter, and of its star for the second time ’round, Craig McLachlan. You might have seen him get his strut on 22 years ago…you might have had your doubts about how he’d go this time…well, you might be surprised!

 

Craig McLachlan NAILS IT!

 

As the master of the house and creator of the creature, McLachlan sets the pace, drives the show and needs the rest of the company to step up and match his energy, his sass and his blatant tongue-in-cheek performance. And I’m sure they will. Perhaps they already have. McLachlan’s is a level of confidence that set him apart on opening night, but once everybody relaxes and remembers that it’s okay to have as much fun as the audience is having, this production will prove it’s more than a just a trip down memory lane for loyal fans, and an extraordinary introduction to a cult classic for newcomers.

 

Christie Whelan Browne, Tim Maddren & Craig McLachlan

 

In case you’ve actually been living on another planet since 1975 or you’re a legit naive newbie and didn’t do your research (shame on you!), here are the key plot points. Don’t worry about transitions or linking devices. There aren’t any.

 

The Usherette (the gorgeous Erika Heynatz), clad in cotton candy pink, welcomes us with the contextualising song Science Fiction

 

Brad and Janet (Tim Maddren and Christie Whelan Browne) attend a friend’s wedding, Brad asks Janet to marry him, she accepts, and they drive out to find the guy who began it, when they met in his science “examit”, Dr Scott (a miscast Nicholas Christo).

 

Due to a flat tire, on the dark, rainy night in the middle of nowhere, Brad and Janet discover a castle (a beautiful rendition from the company of Over At The Frankenstein House), and they are welcomed by Riff Raff (Kristian Lavercombe is fantastic), Magenta (Erika Heynatz again, with a little less sass and grit in this role than I’d anticipated), Columbia (a smiling, sparkling Ashlea Pyke) and a budget conscious, conservatively clothed four Phantoms (Vincent Hooper, Luigi Lucente, Megan O’Shea and Angela Scundi).

 

The Time Warp. Image by Jeff Busby.

 

They do The Time Warp and strip the bewildered Brad and Janet down to their underwear. As you do.

 

The Master, Frank-N-Furter, appears and wows them and us with the showstopper, Sweet Transvestite, in case we weren’t sure about his orientation or intentions…

 

Frank-N-Furter takes Brad and Janet to his lab, where they meet The Creature, Rocky (Brendan Irving and his abs) and Eddie (much more comfortable in this role is Nicholas Christo. Just to clarify, Christo is gorgeous and super talented and, well, let’s welcome him back to cabaret real soon!).

 

What follows is a night of debauchery and the deflowering of both Brad and Janet – though not together – and Brad sings the sweet ballad Once In A While, which was in the original stage show and cut from the film, but probably should not have been. Richard O’Brien notes (hilariously, I think!),“One of the things about the show is that it needed cuts, but I think now that was possibly because of the fact they didn’t understand it.” Ha! Luckily for us, we have the good natured and disarmingly charming Narrator, Tony Farrell, to help us follow (and I use the word cautiously) the narrative.

 

The residents reveal themselves to be aliens, and anybody still living performs in a flashy, suitably tacky floorshow with Frank-N-Furter before his grisly demise.

 

Finally, inextricably, Riff Raff and Magenta return home to their beloved Transylvania in outer space, leaving Brad and Janet to ponder their strange night of sex with aliens. AS YOU DO.

 

Highlights? Richard O’Brien, the original creator of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and its original Riff Raff, on stage in flesh-coloured leggings, boots and his trademark leopard print, to lead the company (and the audience) in yet another encore of The Time Warp. Oh, and catching up with the man himself after the show, although, tragically, he didn’t remember me. I sat with him to see a tech run of the show (starring Marcus Graham) in 1996. (There’s not a lot online about this production but this hater certainly thought very little of it! I loved it, but then I saw more of it than most!). O’Brien was the strangest, most fascinating man I’d ever met. Clearly, I didn’t leave much of an impression on him.

 

With Richard O'Brien The Rocky Horror Show

Too bad Richard O’Brien didn’t remember me. Of course I looked much younger then whereas he looked, incredibly, pretty much the same as he does now.

 

Oh, you meant highlights from the show? Right. Well, Christie Whelan Browne sings absolutely perfectly. She and Maddren are ideal for these simplistic roles, in fact they’re almost too good, and they can both get down and dirty a little more methinks (they might as well do, there’s so little for them to play with within the roles themselves!), but even so, their performances will earn both artists an entirely new fan base, as well as cementing their spots at the top of the musical theatre tree.

 

McLachlan throwing in the additional lyric, “Cards 4 Sorrow” at the end of the show, giving those from the Brisbane floor show, who’d dressed especially, quite a thrill! (And if you’re THAT big a fan, of course I don;t need to tell you; you will have already downloaded the Callback Companion app).

 

The lively four-piece band, comprising Carlo Barbaro (saxophone), Glenn Moorehouse (guitar), Brett Canning (bass) and Mark Charters (drums), and MD Dave Skelton rock! They produce a surprisingly full sound, which serves this rock n roll musical production very well.

 

Costumes designed by Sue Blane (including a change especially for the final reprise of The Time Warp), the designer credited over and above Vivienne Westwood by O’Brien and Patricia Quinn (Magenta in the movie), for having created punk, giving us instantly recognisable characters, and a simple and serviceable old-school set, designed by Hugh Durrant. I loved the celluloid strip, a brilliant touch.

 

And before re-stating the obvious, it must be said out loud in print online here that in 1973 on stage and in 1975 on screen, Rocky Horror was indeed, rather risqué. But this production plays it very safe, and I was looking forward to a degree of updated shock factor, as well as the nostalgia and the slight nod to all things sexy and naughty. Despite their terrific vocal work, I feel the Phantoms are wasted (either feature them or don’t!), and most of the characters can do with a little more grunt and pelvic thrust! Literally! Columbia is gorgeous but Pyke underplays her (it might actually be impossible to better Little Nell’s performance), and as sexy as she is, instead of leaping through it, when Magenta gets a window she barely nudges it open with her big toe. Dr Scott has no significant trait other than his containment in a wheelchair, and Eddie’s number, Hot Patootie, which is historically one of the musical highlights of the show, is reminiscent of a runner-up-in-the-ratings-race TV talent show.

 

It’s a fine line and this company is good enough to walk it in stilettos, if only Luscombe had let them explore a little more, rather than respecting so highly the tried and true two dimensional original characters. Having said that, from all YouTube evidence, and judging by the pace and the the superb staging of this production, I’d say Luscombe has out-directed even the Broadway revival production.

 

I’d love to see this Rocky Horror Show again by the end of the season to see if those energy levels have gone through the roof, and to see if the “good-humoured naughtiness” has reached an all-time cheeky low. I respect that McLachlan has had 22 years to re-locate that perverted place, but let’s see if the rest of the company can find it!

 

 

And so, as you were warned, to re-state the obvious, McLachlan.

 

 

Craig McLachlan is THE highlight of this production and I don’t care if you never want to see Rocky Horror again, you MUST go see it because McLachlan’s is an exceptional performance, exquisitely crafted, with a nod to just about every famous Frank-N-Furter we’ve ever seen, and a long, loud, deliberate peal of laughter in the face of everything that’s ever been referred to as “risqué”. Go on, give yourself over; even if you hate it, you’ll love it!

 

 

 

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