The Rocky Horror Show (Gordon Frost Organisation, GWB Entertainment and Howard Panter Ltd)
QPAC, Concert Hall
January 18 – February 11
Before it was “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” film of 1975, “Rocky Horror Show” was already a cult classic, at once a humorous tribute to science fiction and B grade horror movies and a culturally iconic examination of empowerment and fluid-sexuality. The adults-only musical written by Richard O’Brien tells the story of newly engaged conservative couple Brad and Janet fleeing from a storm to the home of a mad transvestite scientist from transsexual Transylvania, Dr Frank-N-Furter, who is unveiling his new creation, a “Frankenstein” sort of monster in form of a fully grown, physically perfect muscle man named Rocky, complete ‘with blond hair and a tan’.
A whirlwind Act One, where the best songs dwell, is full of introductions as the apprehensive and uneasy couple Time Warp their way into the unfamiliar world of mayhem and even murder. After intermission, things get down and dirty and very naughty as the fishnet-stocking-wearing scientist (Adam Rennie) introduces the oblivious Brad (Rob Mallett) and ever-so-sweet Janet (Michelle Smitheram) to a world of fluid sexuality and excessive indulgence, starting with a very cheeky Act Two opener bed scene.
Any Frank-N-Furter is going to suffer the burden of comparisons to Tim Curry’s career-defining role and stepping into the heels after Craig McLachlan’s exit, Rennie is no exception. Yes, he is glam-rock-star like, but he is also youthful, fun and flirty, bringing a lot of humour to the role in his energetic performance, making it very much his own in blend of menace, vulnerability, desire, scorn and impeccable comic timing. Also outstanding is Kristian Lavercombe as Riff Raff, reprising his 2014 role as the hunchbacked handyman and live-in butler. From the moment of his first at-window appearance in ‘There’s a Light’ his Riff Raff never wanes from high-octane, despite him having well over a thousand performances of the show across Australia, New Zealand and Asia under his belt.
Amanda Harrison is similarly strong in the dual roles of the initial Usherette who introduces the night’ ‘film’ in ‘Science Fiction/Double Feature’ tribute to and sendup of various B movies and serials parodied in the show itself, and mainly as maid Magenta. Her presence is exuberant. Also especially wonderful to watch is Rob Mallett as the mild-mannered Brad, detailed in his performance down the most minor of mannerisms. And as the show’s suave narrator, Cameron Daddo is most deserving of his applause upon entry. His interaction with the audience is terrific, especially as he digresses in response to the show’s trademark audience participation and their shout outs of the ‘say it, say it…’ sort.
Musically, ‘Time Warp’ and ‘Sweet Transvestite’ are expected highlights. Smitheram and Mallett are both excellent in their solo numbers ‘Touch-A Touch-A Touch Me’ and ‘Once in a While’, but it is Rennie’s swan song ‘I’m Going Home’ that resonates the most as, in contrast to the spirited strutting of his earlier songs, he sings with soulful and haunting poignancy in attempt to explain his actions.
Really, “Rocky Horror Show” is bigger than any one performer, which is affirmed by the excellence of this ensemble who seem to be having a great time together on stage. Their animated synchronised choreography, in ‘Eddie’, for example, is all kinds of camp fun. Indeed, this show has naughtiness and adult amusement in abundance. Its strange and pleasurable journey is fast-paced and faithful to the original, making for a highly-entertaining night of rock ‘n’ roll debauchery, only not for all the family.