A birthday bash in fishnets

Rocky Horror Show

New Alexandra Theatre

*****

A SIMPLE plot based around a squeaky clean, newly engaged couple who are on their way to visit their old college professor Dr. Scott (Joel Montague). 

Stranded by a thunderstorm and in dire need a telephone, little do the naïve pair know that by following the light coming from the nearby Frankenstein place, they will soon be caught up in the most bizarre series of events.

Those who are Rocky Horror Show ‘virgins' may be surprised to see plenty of fishnet tights, glittering jackets, basques and suspenders as the auditorium fills; many fans dress up as a favourite characters, but it's not compulsory.

You'll very soon meet them all! In Richard O'Brien's rock' n' roll musical parody of horror and science fiction B movies, the transsexual Transylvanian Dr. Frank'n'Furter is about to breathe life into his ultimate creation, Rocky Horror.

Celebrating 40 years success of the show (in June), this performance, directed by Christopher Luscombe, was creative and entertaining in equal measure. Ben Forster (winner of ITV Superstar) was in great voice as nerdy Brad Majors with Roxanne Pallett (formerly Emmerdale) in spanking form as fiancée Janet Weiss.

STRUTTING

From the moment he steps out on stage, Oliver Thornton (part of the original cast of Priscilla Queen of the Desert) dominates, without overshadowing others in the ensemble. As Frank, he's fabulous; strutting and skipping around the stage in killer heels while Riff Raff (Kristian Lavercombe) goes over the top and fawns with his sister Magenta (Abigayle Jaye) the French maid and spangled groupie Columbia (Ceris Hine).

It's not surprising that the show has gained cult status - weirdness and frolics ensue with talkback lines from the audience, sensual pleasure and a chain saw characterizing the rest of the performance.

The clever set design means that we soon find ourselves in the tiled laboratory where Frank's maniacal experiment reaches its conclusion. With action around levers and lights he brings life to a fake-tanned Rocky who is clad only in leopard-skin Speedos and displays a rock hard six-pack (excellently played by Rhydian - star of X-factor).

As you might expect with this strong cast, everybody in the theatre is soon rocking and dancing and joining in with The Time Warp and other familiar tunes.  More convoluted parts of the storyline are narrated by Phillip Franks - a delight in crushed velvet – who plays up the show's camp humour while the heckling audience toss in ‘zingers' of their own.

How will Brad and Janet escape?

A remarkable musical, with its raunchy costumes and explicit sexuality, this show may not be the most comfortable choice if you or yours have a vulnerable disposition - grannies, parents, children and others may still be shocked.

But if you're not easily embarrassed and can go with the flow then get yourself glammed up. It's just a jump to the left . . . and a step to the right! Join in with the pelvic thrusts and enjoy a great night out which demonstrates that we have travelled a long way since the earliest Rocky Horror shows way back in the seventies!

Laura Ginesi

Meanwhile warping away in the back

***

HALF the fun of attending Richard O'Brien's cult musical is watching the eager audience arrive with plenty of the men as well as women wearing colourful basques, stockings, high heels and suspenders, and spectacular wigs, or dressed as crazed scientists.       

And as the show celebrates its 40th anniversary, the customers are as rude, crude and amusing as ever, particularly with their repeated exchanges, mainly of a sexual nature, with the Narrator, here played by veteran actor Philip Franks, of Darling Buds of May fame.

Franks gives as good as he gets - missing his lines just once – which is something of a triumph with so many well-planned barbs fired in his direction.

West end star Oliver Thornton, no stranger to tights from his days as a classical ballet student, is comfortable in the key role of the mad cross-dressing transvestite Frank-N-Furter, although I have seen it played with more charismatic menace in the past.

Thornton impresses in the bedroom scene where he seduces the shocked newly-engaged sweet, innocent, Janet and her geeky fiancé, Brad. But what has happened to those clever flashback scenes we expect to see beamed onto a large screen? A real miss.

ITV Superstar winner Ben Forster and Emmerdale's Roxanne Pallett are perfect as the young couple who stumble on Frank-N-Furter's eerie castle, inhabited by space aliens, when their car blows a tyre, and X Factor's Rhydian parades talent as well as a great body as the transvestite scientist's creation, Rocky.

Good performances, too, from Kristian Lavercombe (Riff Raff) and Ceris Hine (Columbia), and the excellent band, under musical director Tony Castro, get the audience on their feet with The Time Warp.

Directed by Christopher Luscombe, Rocky Horror Show continues its sexual orbit to 02.02.13

Paul Marston 

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