MusicalNorth East & YorkshireReview

Rocky Horror Show – Alhambra Theatre, Bradford

Reviewer: Jennie Eyres

Book, Music and Lyrics: Richard O’Brien

Director: Christopher Luscombe

This fascinating, ridiculously funny cult classic rears its head every few years, much to the delight of its audiences who often go all out with their costumes and make up, genning up on the script so that they know the adlibs, panto style.

This year is The Rocky Horror Show’s 50th anniversary no less and with it comes a chance to do something really interesting with the show – to pick the best bits from productions over the last 50 years and to come out with a special production. Instead, this is a mostly very straightforward version, with little in the way of new and different. However, because the show is so iconic, and the material so good, it really doesn’t matter too much.

The story revolves around one fateful stormy night, when newly engaged Brad Majors (Richard Meek) and Janet Weiss (Haley Flaherty) get a flat tyre as they drive to see their old science teacher and tell him their good news. They see a light in the darkness, “over at the Frankenstein place” and decide to go there to use the phone. They meet a series of increasingly odd characters throughout the evening and by the end find themselves changed forever from the naïve and carefree bright young things they appeared to be at the start.

Set choice is interesting, with very panto-esque painted scenery and a fantastic film reel around the top of the set, a clear nod to the musical’s B-movie roots and the fact that the audience at the start are told that this is a Science Fiction Double Feature they have come to see.

Motherland star Jackie Clune takes on the role of the Narrator, which has only been performed by a woman a couple of times before in its history, and she is excellent. Pleasantly formal, as the narrator should be, but with a twinkle in her eye she deals well with the audience interaction and her own improvisation skills are very quick.

Two stand out moments in the show come as a surprise, as both of them are slow songs with simple choreography. Richard Meek has the most fantastic voice, so it is no wonder that director Christopher Luscombe chose to have him singing Once in a While completely straight, without quirks or silliness. The song has natural beauty, and Meek brings all of it out with his rendition, in part a duet with Flaherty.

The second stand out song comes in Frank ‘N’ Furter’s final moments as he thinks he is returning to the planet Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania. Stephen Webb’s voice sounds incredible singing I’m Going Home and it is played without comedy, but as a sad and poignant song about regrets and misunderstandings. This is in contrast with much of the rest of Webb’s performance, which is quite a masculine and rock version of Frank ‘N’ Furter. His accent is odd, part New York maybe, possibly a bit Texan, sometimes English, with a Transylvanian tinge even – whatever it was it came and went and meant that words were thrown away on occasion.

The cast in this show are incredibly strong, the choreography is achieved with perfection and the harmonies are beautiful, even the gorgeous but empty-headed Rocky (Ben Westhead) can sing and dance! A standout performance was by Kristian Lavercombe who steals the show in every scene he is in as the servant turned commander, Riff Raff. Lavercombe has been in the show for 13 years and well over 2000 performances and it absolutely shows, he is fascinating to watch and his voice in There’s a Light is a delight.

This production of Rocky Horror Show has all the ingredients of yet another successful revival – it doesn’t do anything particularly new or different, but it doesn’t really need to, the audience always loves it just the way it is.

Runs until 30th September.

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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