Posts Tagged ‘Rocky Horror Show


Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show


Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show

Gordon Frost Organisation, GWB Entertainment and Howard Panter Ltd

QPAC Concert Hall

January 19 – February 11 2018


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward



Don’t dream it, be it.


The message has never been clearer: you can be whatever you want to be. But somewhere along the way, has Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show taken this lesson a little too literally, and lost some sense of self?


It’s still a ridiculously fun, kitsch show (a ridiculous, fun, kitsch show) – it’s even retained a little bit of its naughtiness (the bed scene is still hilarious, although, thank Adam, not quite as lewd) – but it seems it’s not only the size of the production that’s been scaled back. With Craig McLachlan’s departure from this slick little mini-production from London and even less time allowed than in 2014 for the double entendres and sight gags to sink in, it’s no longer a wild and untamed thing. Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show is practically PG.



In London, in 1973 the very first Rocky Horror Show genuinely shocked audiences, and with the 1975 release of the film (a dismal failure at first, and let’s not even speak of the appalling remake from 2015), based on the stage production by Richard O’Brien, this strange encounter of virgins and phantoms and aliens quickly became a cult classic. The show has played all over the world non-stop for 45 years, and in case you were unaware, an audience participation ‘script’ informs both screenings and live performances, although the Brisbane Cards 4 Sorrow crowd (if that’s who they were. Incidentally, their next floorshow is in March; check it out here) didn’t get much of a look in this time, the couple of determined callouts deflected without hesitation by Narrator, Cameron Daddo, superbly and very suavely his natural self in this coveted role). Perhaps they felt, after the initial bold outburst, that QPAC’s Concert Hall was not the place for it…


Tim Curry remembers the moment he realized that his performance as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in “The Rocky Horror Show,” the London stage precursor to the 1975 cult film, was no longer his alone.


David Bowie and his wife at the time, Angela, were in the audience that night in 1973. Onstage, Frank, the hypersexual alien mad scientist, was being held at ray-gunpoint by his former servants, Riff Raff (Richard O’Brien) and Magenta (Patricia Quinn). They were about to shoot when Ms. Bowie shouted, ‘‘No, don’t do it!”


Indeed, the Concert Hall feels like the least likely space in which to experience Rocky Horror, but Mamma Mia! continues to claim the Lyric until February 4. According to one of the venue’s producers, we’ll likely see more of this use of the Concert Hall, which has historically been home to artists and acts of a slightly different ilk. Perhaps the precedent was set by Harvest Rain, with their full-scale musicals in this space before a move across the road, or had it been set already? It’s truly magnificent to have so much coming to Brisbane that QPAC (booked ahead for years you understand), must utilise every space, but by the same token, it’s a firm reminder that we are in desperate need of another performing arts venue in Brisbane that doesn’t also serve as a convention centre or conference location.


In exciting news for independent artists, presenters and producers seeking a brand new and intimate performance space, XS Entertainment is issuing an invitation to come play with us on the Sunshine Coast. 

Email for available dates and details. 


It could be said that this version of Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show continues to suffer from its smaller scale, although probably not if you’ve never seen it live on stage before…



A couple of Rocky Horror virgins joined me on opening night, and despite some confusion surrounding the story and some horror/mock horror moments – cold blooded murder and beneath-the-bed-sheet sight gags – they enjoyed the show and the performances from a cast rocked by allegations against the previous leading man, made before the Brisbane season commenced, by Christie Whelan Brown, Erika Heynatz and Angela Scundi, cast members from the 2014 production and, for the record, as far as I can see, all without reason to fabricate anything against anyone to further their careers. (Honestly. The things people say). Regardless of our understanding of the facts, the women experienced something that negatively affected them.


It doesn’t matter if we would not be affected in the same way. What happens to a person happens to them in a way that no one else can ever fully appreciate. It is a person’s right to feel the way they feel about a situation. 


The producers had told us in the early press, “this is sure to be an even wilder and sexier night out than ever before…” and perhaps it is, if you don’t get out much. The reward this time, if you’ve seen the show before, is in the night out itself, the whole event of going to the theatre with friends, a bit of fun, and also, thankfully, in solid performances across the board.



The standout, however, is Kristian Lavercombe, with more than a thousand performances to his name as Riff Raff. Again, he’s absolutely sensational, building vocally on the work we’d heard previously and deceiving us into thinking we’re witnessing Richard O’Brien’s soul take up residence in another body. Amanda Harrison holds her own as the Usherette and Magenta. (It’s a really tough gig to keep us enthralled throughout that opening number of obscure sci-fi references and plot points!)



It seems appropriate to note that one of the best ever in this dual role, Jayde Westaby, can be seen across the hall until February 4 as Tanya in Mamma Mia!



Brendan Irving is, once again, just beautiful as the all-singing, all-posing, all-glittering and glistening Rocky, bringing to life a scene that threatens to slow the bull-in-a-china-shop pace if it were not for his impressive posturing. The hand mic, used inexplicably by both Rocky and Frank-N-Furter for this scene and the following, loses its potency after about three seconds, becoming a distraction. I’ve never understood its inclusion. Also, Irving’s an aerialist and I’m still confounded as to why his considerable skill in the air hasn’t been incorporated by Director, Christopher Luscombe. The bizarre interruption of Eddie (James Bryers) also lightens the mood before it turns gruesome, with Frank’s response to the appearance of this unwelcome guest. Unfortunately, Hot Patootie is turned into an untidy non-event rather than featuring as the fully choreographed showstopper it might be (and wasn’t it, in 1992?). This time the morbid game of chainsaw cat and mouse played out across the stage is chaotic, but doesn’t add to the excitement of the show. This oddity, common in blockbuster smash hits demanding more of the marketing and publicity teams than of the touring company, occurs across the entirety of the show, with the exception of Lavercombe’s Riff Raff and Rob Mallet’s (adorable) Brad. The ensemble is rounded out by Michelle Smitheram as Janet, Nadia Komazec as Columbia and Phantoms, Bianca Baykara, Ross Chisari, Hayley Martin and Stephen McDowell. The on-stage band is ably led to light speed by MD Dave Skelton.


As for Australia’s newest superstar, Adam Rennie turns the role on its head to become the sweetest transvestite we’ve ever seen. It’s true, he’s missing some specificity and physical extravagance (Tim Curry speaks about creating the character here), at least on opening night, although he may have spiced things up and nailed more precise movement (and electrifying stillness) towards the end of the season, but he’s gorgeous and he makes it his own. His is a thoroughly entertaining performance, marked especially by sensational singing and his unique sweet and cheeky take on the role. In fact, whether or not he means to, Rennie comes across as just about the antithesis of McLachlan’s leering hyper sexual alien scientist. And despite being at odds with the character’s placement and purpose in the story, it’s refreshing, perfectly non-threatening, and perfect for this (political climate) light, fun, smash-hit re-staging, which really does appear to assume we’ve seen it all before, and also, that its audiences will continue to get younger and younger… (The film retained its R-Rating in some countries for the single silhouetted sex scene). QPAC advises: This show has rude parts…parental guidance recommended.


Why go back again and again to Rocky Horror? It makes little to no sense, neither its costumes (Sue Blane) nor its fluid sexuality are particularly shocking anymore, and we can watch the original film, which is arguably the best version anyway, whenever we like. But there’s something irresistible, isn’t there, about the electric energy of a live glam rock infused performance, and the permission to relinquish judgment and inhibitions, as well as the fleeting connection with strangers in a dark space, lost in time, and lost in space. And meaning.



Enjoy the ride and take what you will, again, from Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show.


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



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!





A chat about The Rocky Horror Show with Tim Maddren and Christie Whelan Browne


I caught up with Tim Maddren and Christie Whelan Browne – Australia’s new Brad and Janet – during their road trip to promote the 40th Anniversary tour of The Rocky Horror Show, which will enjoy its premiere season in Brisbane from January 10 2014.




We meet at Lot 104 on The Esplanade, Mooloolaba, right after school, over sparkling mineral waters and iced tea, as you do after a steady stream of Veuve during Melbourne Cup week!


These two have enjoyed varied and quite illustrious careers already, Christie in a spate of musical theatre hits, and Tim best known as a member of the second generation of Hi-5. Both started in community theatres and have since worked with some of the best in the biz. They are both relaxed and chatty, completely engaging, and enjoying the time to share their stories and tricks of the trade. I warn them that many of our readers are industry peeps so the tricks of the trade are precisely what we want!


Christie tells me about her first ever callback. You know, the totally unexpected one, in which you feel like a freak, the odd one out. She says, “I had no guidance. I went to a callback (for The Producers). It was the final call back. Mel Brooks was there. I was in jeans and runners.” Christie told the woman at the door that nobody had told her what to wear – the other girls were in leotards and stockings – and the woman looked her up and down and told her, “You’ll be right!” Christie was doing a Barbie gig in a shopping centre when her agent gave her the news that she’d won the role. “I learned as I went,” she says. “I picked up tips as I went along.”


“You need good representation.”


Community theatre helped show Christie how hard you have to work to get a show on. “Get the experience that you can’t get anywhere else.”


Tim started out treading community theatre boards in New Zealand (“It gave me the bug!”), and a friend suggested he audition for WAAPA. “I started singing and I could tell they were interested.” Tim did the naïve/uber confident dance call thing too, turning up to the callback barefoot, wearing a rugby shirt. (“What the hell is dance gear?!”) He explains, “In New Zealand I grew up in a rural area and learnt by doing in an amateur theatre group.” He adds, “WAAPA was a really confusing time,” and it was during productions that he was able to put all the pieces together.


Tim played Fyedka in Tim Lawson’s Fiddler on the Roof, and says the cast, which included Topol, Anne Phelan, Octavia Barron Martin, Jennifer White and Sheridan Harbridge (I forget to mention that I’m looking forward to seeing Sheridan in The Beast at MTC on Friday night!), and they taught him so much during the run of the show. “Barry Crocker would give me vocal advice every show.” He would tell Tim, “Bring it up here!” Tim gestures with both hands at the level of his top lip to demonstrate. “They took me under their wing.”


Christie has the same fond memories of working with seasoned performers in Grease. She says, “You’d watch these people – Nat (Bassingthwaite) especially – and Kellie (Abby) was very hard on me. She disciplined me.” Christie confirms, “If you’re surrounded by great people you’re going to learn twice as much.”


“Never stop working. We’ve all got more to learn.”


Tim agrees and says James Millar told him a top tip from Kellie Abby; that was to do something every day that will improve your profession.


“It’s a lifetime career. You can always improve.”


“It’s not talent. It’s hard work.” (Well, Tim, we know that SOME of it’s talent!)


I always wonder about everybody’s keep fit tips and Tim says his fitness is largely dependent on eating well. “If you’re not eating well you’re pushing uphill.” Also, Tim tries to do something completely opposite to what he is involved in doing during a show. “So during The Addams Family I surfed.” While on tour with The Rocky Horror Show Tim plans to race competitively his brand new remote control yacht! He’s looking forward to meeting the competitors in every city and doing something different with his time off stage. He notes, “It gives context to what you’re doing.”


Christie agrees. “You don’t want to be in the bubble. I’ve always been very aware of holding onto reality.” What we do as artists in showbiz, she says, is not reality.


There must be a certain amount of pressure that comes with an iconic show, with a cult following, and I wonder what sort of impact the expectations of audiences has on these two seemingly fearless performers.


“There is a pressure that comes with the expectations” (of a known show with a cult following), observes Christie. And there’s another thing too.


“I’m not gonna’ lie,” Christie smiles, “I’m a little nervous about stripping down to my bra and undies.”


(I know. I hear you. If Christie-Legs-Whelan Browne is worried about how she looks in her underwear what hope do the rest of us have?!)


But seriously, we have to stop and consider for a moment the usefulness of these feelings in terms of creating a character. It was the same consideration when Christie created (with Dean Bryant) Britney Spears: The Cabaret. “It’s a vulnerability thing that you need.” She reminds me that it’s Janet, not Christie,  in her bra and undies.


Tim wonders what effect a relatively unknown ballad might have on audiences. “I’ve got a ballad that no one knows. It’s called Once in a While.” He sings us a couple of lines, much to the amusement of the businessmen trying to stitch up a deal at a nearby table. I ask about that creating-a-role gambit, you know, the tricks of making an iconic character all your own. Tim says, “You pay homage to the original. As an actor, you try to marry up the expectation (of the audience) and the role.”


We joke that the audience will be more dressed than the performers, and they’ll be singing along. Tim says of the audience, “They’re like another character.” Christie says, genuinely delighted, “They’re coming with that…energy!”


“It’s exciting. It’s fun. We’re interacting with cast members on a very intimate level. It’s a very hard place not to have fun.”


It’s a comparatively brief tour, just six months, but still, I’m always interested to know how other performers stay connected and committed to their roles. Tim tells us about working with Topol and watching him play Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof night after night; “After 40-something years, every night he cried, and it was real,” Tim says. “Every night they’re paying the same amount of money so you do the same performance. You want t go home with your head held high, know that you did a really good job.” Christie says her trick is to focus on the audience.


“It’s a pride thing as well. It’s about keeping yourself in check.”


And what happens when you screw up? “It’s part of live theatre,” admits Christie. Tim says you apologise “and make sure it doesn’t happen again!”


Both Christie and Tim have partners in the industry, and eyes shine when they speak of the other half. “Sometimes it works really, really well,” says Tim, “…and sometimes really, really not well.” Communication is key, and “giving energy… Saying at the end of the day, this is what I went through today.” Christie says, “It’s really, really hard and you have to work double – triple – hard! I would be equally as devastated if his (Rohan’s) dreams weren’t coming true as well.” Both Christie and Tim understand the value of Skype, and phone calls and texts. They stay in touch. “We’re both newlyweds so we get it.”


Tim asks me, “Who will you dress up as?” Clearly, the cast have expectations of their own! So brush up on the lyrics, dress up as your favourite Rocky Horror character, and get to QPAC from January 10 2014 to see Tim Maddren and Christie Whelan Browne as Brad and Janet in (the world’s favourite Rock ‘n’ Roll musical!), Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show.