It was great when it all began, but over 40 years on, is The Rocky Horror Show still great? Well the answer to that of course is always a big YES, but just how great always depends not only on the cast, but the audience on any given night.
So much of this show always depends of course on the principal characters - Frank-N-Furter (Liam Tamne), Riff Raff (Kristian Lavercombe), Brad (Ben Freeman), Janet (Diana Vickers), Columbia (Sophie Linder-Lee), Magenta (Kay Murphy), Rocky (Dominic Andersen), Eddie/Dr Scott (Richard Meek) and of course the Narrator (Norman Pace).
Tim Curry’s iconic “sweet transvestite” is always going to be a hard act to follow, but Liam Tamne as Frank-N-Furter was at times just not engaging the audience fully in this role. That did improve in the second half as I warmed to his interpretation of the character a bit more. There were times though when he just never seemed to have the audience fully on his side (“Wild and Untamed Thing” comes to mind here), but “Don’t Dream It, Be It” was one of the best performances that I have seen. I think for me, part of the problem was that Frank’s character was just not as teasing or playful as I expected and there was almost no interaction with the audience (but it was maybe directed that way and not Liam’s fault). There were a few moments too when Liam seemed just a little bit uncomfortable up there on stage in his best fishnet stocking and high heels.
Diana Vickers as Janet was an “on/off” role for me too. Strong vocals throughout, but it would have been nice to have heard some gentler ones too. Somehow, that naivety, softness and complete innocence of Janet was not there (maybe Frank-N-Furter stole it all). I did get to like this Janet a lot more though as the show went on. Ben Freeman as Brad however was one of the highlights of the show with probably the best vocals for the character and a nice take on Brad.
Kristian Lavercombe has played Riff Raff nearly a thousand times now, so has that character exactly where he wants it to be.
Norman Pace as Narrator stole a big chunk of the show. This role really needs someone who is not fazed by audience shout-outs and, where needed, can take them and run with them, and that is exactly what Norman did all night.
Set-wise, we seem to be going back a bit to basics – nothing wrong with that, but this show has been a massive success for many years and some of the audience may have liked a bigger production here.
“The Rocky Horror Show” is unique as a stage show. It really does belong to the fans and the audience on the night, and there is just a warm feeling of goodwill at any performance that you do not get anywhere else. With some classic songs such as “Over at The Frankenstein Place”, “The Time Warp” and “Sweet Transvestite”, the show always is itself the star and is somehow always bigger and better than any individual components of the show.
As always, a big hit with the audience loving the show. If you are a fan then you will probably already have your ticket. If you have never been to the show and have no idea what it is about then I am not telling you – as the song says “Don’t Dream It, Be It”.
Review by Tom King & Lisa Sibbald