Rocky Horror Show is back in town and its devotees will be delighted to learn that the latest production is as rude and raunchy and rollicking good fun as any version that has preceded the 2021-22 World Tour. The theatre-goer usually attends a first Rocky performance to see what the fuss is all about, makes a second visit to check that the memory of a rock musical that changes the face of musical theatre is correct and is then hooked on a show that is such a naughty piece of escapism that attendance is essential to take the mind away from everyday stresses.
Many of the audience are repeat attenders at what is a (very) adult pantomime with the newbies evident as their initial shock at seeing a cast dressed in fabulously erotic style by Sue Blane and the beautifully rude interaction between audience and cast transforms them as they ride the tidal wave that sweeps them through the action.
For those few who have no idea what the Rocky experience is all about it tells the tale of Brad and Janet – a naïve young couple who suffer a mechanical failure on their way home from a wedding. Stranded in a remote area, the only hope of salvation is a castle owned by Dr Frank N Furter who is in the middle of an experiment to produce his perfect lover. Once through the doors, the hapless pair stray into the dark side. Will their relationship survive once they have tasted the forbidden fruit?
Regular Rockies can be assured that writer Richard O’Brien and his company have exerted full-on quality control over the production and, in my humble opinion, this version – with its strong cast and the usual high-quality set designed by Hugh Durrant and a rocking band under the direction of Greg Arrowsmith – surpasses the production that came to the Regent a couple of years ago.
Stephen Webb dominates the stage as Frank with strong vocals and a gloriously over-the-top performance in his role as master (mistress?) of the house while Haley Flaherty – what an excellent voice – and Ore Oduba are perfectly cast as Janet and Brad as they progress through their journey of sexual enlightenment. Oduba’s career has progressed in leaps and bounds since winning Strictly and his performance in this production can only take him to a higher level.
Philip Franks is an excellent Narrator as he adeptly copes with the audience’s jibes and introduces topical jokes to bring freshness to the show and Kristian Lavercombe shows exactly why he is approaching 2000 performances as Riff Raff with another faultless display.
A key part of the success of the Rocky Horror Show is the writing of the legendary O’Brien which gives every character the chance to show off their comedic and vocal talents. Suzie McAdam (Usherette/Magenta), Lauren Ingram (Columbia), Ben Westhead (Rocky), and Joe Allen (Eddie/Dr Scott) are all given the chance to showcase their talents (and do it admirably) and, alongside a talented ensemble of Reece Budin, Darcy Finden, Jordan Fox and Rachel Grundy, provide a show that effortlessly skips by. A production of sheer magic.
The atmosphere was electric on the opening night with many in the audience dressing to impress as the world of theatre made another significant step out of the pandemic. Performing in and attending this musical is seen as a rite of passage that everyone should experience. Suspenders are not essential but they do add to the fun. As its title says this ageless piece of musical theatre contains a character called Rocky, has a storyline that will please the lovers of Horror but, above all, what a Show!!
The production has a running time of approximately two hours including the interval and continues until June 18th. For ticket information contact 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/stoke