Rocky Horror Show – The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Book, Lyrics and Music: Richard O’Brien

Director: Christopher Luscombe

Reviewer: Scott Matthewman

Of all the musicals on tour at the moment, The Rocky Horror Show is the one that needs no introduction. Richard O’Brien’s sexually charged tribute to 1950s B-movie sensibility, infused with liberal applications of gender-challenging glam rock, is one of the rare items of popular culture that happily straddles the gulf between a cult hit and mass market popularity.

As the clean-cut American sweethearts whose car breakdown kicks off what passes for a plot, Diana Vickers and Ben Freeman bring a necessary initial innocence to the characters of Janet and Brad. Vickers, in particular, captures the character perfectly, channeling a mix of Doris Day and Grease’s Olivia Newton-John, making the contrast with her sexual awakening all the more pronounced.

The glam spectacle inside Frank-n-Furter’s mysterious castle (a functional, if hardly ground breaking, set by Hugh Durrant) is enlivened by Kristian Lavercombe’s handyman-cum-butler Riff Raff and Sophie Linder-Lee’s Magenta, while Kay Murphy’s Columbia provides the show’s biggest applause moment with a frenetic solo dance number that is as gloriously bonkers as the show deserves.

Unfortunately, Frank himself, the self-styled “sweet transvestite” whose sexual magnetism awakens desire in all around him, lacks the potency in this production that the role requires. Liam Tamne’s ever-impressive vocals work well in vocalising Frank’s song numbers, but there is a lack of dominance that the character demands. More effective is Dominic Andersen’s Rocky who, despite spending most of the show in skimpy leopard print underwear, imbues the character with a sense of dignity, backed with a great singing voice.

As the narrator, Steve Punt – who has returned to the show after a month-long break – feels at times supremely confident, at others grasping for cue lines. And for a show which revels in audience participation, Punt finds himself thrown more than once by heckles from even a subdued Monday press night audience. One can only hope that by the time of the weekend late shows, he and the rest of the show – and, indeed, the audience – have warmed up even more.

Despite the limitations of this production, the glories of O’Brien’s music revelling in its heady mix of 1950s rock &roll and 1970s camp shine through throughout. This may not be the best production of The Rocky Horror Show that theatres have seen, but it provides enough high spots for fans to adore.

Runs until 23 April 2016 | Image: Contributed

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