Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show, now entering its three last weeks at The Lyric Theatre, is ideal Saturday night entertainment, but perhaps not for the whole family. Director Christopher Luscombe’s revival of the infamous cult musical is a two-hour production brimming with both energy and innuendo.
Fans of the 1975 film adaptation will note a few deviations in the plot and musical numbers as this 40th anniversary tour returns to its stage musical roots, largely sticking to the original Broadway production.
For those unfamiliar with the madness that is Rocky Horror, two young American sweethearts find themselves stranded at the castle of Dr Frank N Furter, who is throwing a party to unveil a man he has been creating, a-la-Frankenstein with “blond hair and a tan”. Absurdity ensues in the form of mind control, floor shows, sexual exploits and intergalactic aliens set to the tune of an outrageous rock score.
A more apt title might perhaps be The Craig McLachlan Show. The well-known Aussie actor treads the boards in high heels and stockings with experienced ease as he reprises his role as Dr Frank N Furter. His innuendo-laden asides and ad-libbed gestures prompt a steady stream of laughs from the evening crowd.
The downside of McLachlan’s scene-stealing presence is that it feels like the opening twenty minutes have been compressed to allow time for McLachlan to work his transsexual, Transylvanian charms on the audience. This section arguably contains some of the best songs of the show, including “Dammit Janet”, “Over at the Frankenstein Place” and the much-loved classic “The Time Warp”.
Amy Lehpamer and understudy Drew Weston perform well as the archetypal characters of the ingénue Janet Weiss and clean-cut Brad Majors. Brandon Irving is well cast in the titular role of Rocky with his muscular physique, and he makes his mark despite his limited stage time.
Kristian Lavercombe breathes fresh life into “The Time Warp”, giving a stellar vocal performance as the eerie assistant Riff Raff. He is well-accompanied by Jayde Westaby in the role of his galactic sister and partner-in-crime Magenta, who shines in the opening number “Science Fiction, Double Feature”.
The band nails the authenticity of the original score, complemented by the excellent sound design that hits all the right notes without overpowering the vocals of the cast. The set design is small but versatile; it swiftly rearranges itself from church to castle and foyer to laboratory, each resembling the visual scenery of its filmic counterpart.
The main flaw of this production is that it lacks emotion and grit. This may very well have been intentional, particularly as a 40th anniversary tour that at times feels more like a reunion concert than a full-scale stage production.
It’s a rollicking, fun show that will have your toes tapping and your time warping, but perhaps a little more attention to the themes at the core of this musical would really have transported this production into another dimension.
The Rocky Horror Show is at the Sydney Lyric Theatre, The Star, until June 7. Bookings: ticketmaster.com.au or 1300 795 267. Groups 8+ 1300 889 278.
Melbourne season: Comedy Theatre, Melbourne from June 11. Bookings: ticketmaster.com.au or phone 1300 111 011.