Theatre, Musicals & Concerts – Views & Reviews
It was strange the way it happened – fans of Rocky Horror weren’t expecting another show until the UK tour due to begin in December 2015, but then we were delighted to hear the news of a two week West End run.
The good news kept getting better – many favourite actors from previous tours would be reprising their roles (including David Bedella as Frank-N-Furter), and to top it all off the show’s creator Richard O’Brien would also be appearing as The Narrator.
As if that wasn’t enough, we soon learned that the run would include a gala performance in aid of Amnesty International which would be broadcast to cinemas around the UK and Europe.
Despite attending several previous productions of Rocky Horror, I’d never seen Richard O’Brien in the cast before, so we decided to indulge in stalls seats and attend in full costume – me as Surgical Frank, and Ian as Labcoat Brad.
The cast were sublime – even though David Bedella has donned Frank’s heels before, he seemed to be enjoying the role even more this time around, relishing every line and managing to keep the rowdy audience quiet during his beautiful rendition of I’m Going Home.
Kristian Lavercombe proved yet again that he’s the perfect Riff Raff, still bringing a freshness to a role he’s played almost a thousand times before – most recently on the Australian tour as Craig McLachlan’s “faithful handyman”.
Jayde Westaby is fantastic as a leggy vampish Magenta, and her other role as Usherette is a stark contrast – singing Science Fiction/Double Feature directly to the audience with such enthusiastic joy she almost makes us believe we’re about to witness Brad & Janet’s adventures for the first time.
Ben Forster continues to be a delight as a playful Brad Majors, and for all his slapstick and comic gurning during the hilarious bedroom scene, he still delivers a soft and moving version of Once in a While.
Haley Flaherty is an innocent and serious Janet (coming straight from her run as Miss Honey in Matilda), and her awakening is not dissimilar to that of Olivia Newton-John in Grease, transforming into an almost entirely different character.
As Columbia, Sophie Linder-Lee was clearly having a blast (despite the show’s promotional materials continuing to show her predecessor Ceris Hines). During her rebellion speech she seemed genuinely hurt; and her “It’s a gas!” mania (something I’ve often found to be done far too OTT) was more believable and fun – even raising a smile from Frank.
Following an excellent performance as Brad five years ago, Richard Meek has here swapped Brad’s blazer & pipe for Eddie’s leathers & sax. He’s great fun for the one number he’s alive, but he’s particularly impressive in his second role as Doctor Scott, with a performance clearly influenced by 1950s sci-fi movies.
The biggest surprise for me was newcomer Dominic Andersen as Frank’s creation Rocky – it’s a refreshing change to have a Rocky whose singing and acting abilities are as impressive as his abs. He has great chemistry with the rest of the cast, joining in with Eddie for a verse of Hot Patootie much to Frank’s annoyance.
Even the Phantoms seemed to be doing more on stage – lots of touch-a-touchy interaction with the cast, although perhaps I only noticed due to being closer to the stage than I usually am. Amongst them was Ben Kerr who had recently appeared as Brad Majors in the King’s Head production of the sequel Shock Treatment. I was thrilled to meet “My two Brad’s” (Ben Forster & Ben Kerr) afterwards in a pub around the corner, both of whom were very charming. We were also thrilled to speak to Dominic Andersen, choreographer Nathan Wright and swing Andrew Ahern.
As for Richard O’Brien, he raised the roof with the crowd going wild on his every entrance – he looked delighted and almost embarrassed waiting for the chance to deliver his lines. Although he’s confessed that he’s not a fan of the audience participation, he was still game for it – after his line “Over? What was over?” one audience member responded with the usual callback of “Your career!”, but in a room filled with his fans this was met with loud booing, and Richard mocked “You didn’t really think that one through, did you?!”.
Overall it was one of the more magical performances of The Rocky Horror Show I’ve attended, as it drew to an end and Richard sang the final verse of Superheroes (usually spoken), I got rather misty-eyed – and that wasn’t a reaction to my eyeliner!
‘The Rocky Horror Show’ was at the Playhouse Theatre from 11-26 September 2015. For news of the latest tour, visit rockyhorror.co.uk.
Usherette – Jayde Westaby
Janet – Haley Flaherty
Brad – Ben Forster
Narrator – Richard O’Brien
Riff Raff – Kristian Lavercombe
Magenta – Jayde Westaby
Columbia – Sophie Linder-Lee
Frank-N-Furter – David Bedella
Rocky – Dominic Andersen
Eddie/Dr Scott – Richard Meek
Phantoms – Ben Kerr, Will Knights, Rachel Grundy, Hannah Malekzad
Swing – Andrew Ahern
Written by Richard O’Brien
Directed by Christopher Luscombe
Set Designer – Hugh Durrant
Costume Designer – Sue Blane
Choreography – Nathan M Wright
Lighting Design – Nick Richings
Sound Design – Gareth Owen
Musical Arrangements – Richard Hartley
Additional Musical Arrangements – Simon Beck
Musical Supervisor – Tony Castro
Musical Director – Greg Arrowsmith
Associate Director – Simon Greiff
Wigs Designer – Darren Ware
Associate Costume Designer – Christopher Porter
Production Managers – Simon Gooding & Matt Jones