Horror show rocks on and on

Stocking filler: Oliver Thornton revels and reveals as Frank

The Rocky Horror Show

Wolverhampton Grand

****

THIS is the 40th anniversary of the show which has toured worldwide since its inception by author Richard O'Brien and on the opening night of the Wolverhampton run it was not difficult to see why it is still going strong.

Brash, naughty, and fun, it combines a great rock n roll soundtrack, bright, larger than life characters, plenty of exotic costumes both on stage and in the auditorium, and panto-style audience involvement.

The plot is simple enough, a homage to tacky science fiction and B movies played as a rock n roll musical.

On the way to visit an old college professor, two clean-cut kids, Brad Majors and his fiancée Janet Weiss, run into tyre trouble and seek help at the site of a light down the road. It's coming from the Frankenstein place, where Dr Frank'n'furter is in the midst of one of his maniacal experiments…

What impresses is the energy and verve of the cast and the quality of singing and performance.

Jayde Westaby as the usherette (and later Magenta), sets a formidable standard with the opening Science Fiction/Double Feature which never lets up till the house lights turn on. Philip Franks is outstanding as the Narrator, dealing imperiously with the ritual audience ad libs coming his way. Frank n Furter is played with an arrogant, knowing insouciance by Oliver Thornton, corrupting, camping it up, but most importantly clearly having a very good time.

SNOBBERY

The winners of television talent shows can suffer artistic snobbery from those jealous of their short-cut to fame, yet Ben Forster, who secured his break as Jesus in the Arena production of Jesus Christ Superstar, delivered the part of nerdy Brad with understated assuredness, and a fine vocal performance.

The set, by Hugh Durrant, was simple, effective and kitsch, the music, played from an elevated gallery, rather than the orchestra pit, was razor sharp under the direction of Tony Castro, and the choreography by Nathan Wright was snappy, tight, and louche.

Any show needs an audience and the Rocky Horror crowd are a devoted lot. The talk in the bar was not only of how many previous shows individuals had seen, but how many performances on this tour alone had been attended. Dressing up is de rigueur, each number is enthusiastically applauded and the cognoscenti vie to offer their own ad libs using their encyclopaedic knowledge of the script.

A well-deserved standing ovation closed the show as did a mass dance and sing along with Time Warp. It reflected the warmth of a marvellous, entertaining show and a cast who had given it their all.

The entire cast deliver on entertainment, acting and singing in a fine show which shows every sign of having many years more life in it. It is a party to which all are invited, and all are invited to let themselves go, just for one night. If you haven't seen this production book a ticket now, if you have, go again! To 02-11-13.
Gary Longden

 

And warped in from the back . . .

****

THIS must be the ultimate in audience participation shows, with the customers firing saucy comments at the cast and receiving some stinging ad lib replies from the stage.

It's all part of the fun in Richard O'Brien's hilarious cult rock 'n' roll musical which has reached the end of its 40th anniversary UK tour in Wolverhampton before moving to Australia, where 52, 000 tickets have been snapped up in just two weeks.

Even before curtain up you can enjoy watching the fans arriving in a weird assortment of costumes - men in fishnet stockings, suspenders, high heels, basques and wigs, while their partners flash the flesh in revealing dresses.

Then the insults start to fly when the Narrator, beautifully played by Shakespearean actor Philip Franks, begins to explain the plight of squeaky clean sweethearts Brad Majors and Janet Weiss when their car blows a tyre in a storm and they seek help at the eerie home of transvestite Dr Frank-N-Furter.

Oliver Thornton sparkles as Frank, and there are slick performances from ITV Superstar winner Ben Forster (Brad) and 2012 Strictly Come Dancing finalist Dani Harmer (Janet), with Kristian Lavercome amusing as the creepy Riff Raff and Henry Davis a lively Rocky.

The audience are warned that the show has rude parts - none ruder than the double bed scenes involving Frank and the unsuspecting Brad and Janet.

With all that visual stuff going on, though, there is much to enjoy with songs like Time Warp, Damn it Janet and Sweet Transvestite. To 02. 11. 13

Paul Marston 

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