John Kitching, Writer

50 Years Old But Rocky Horror Still Going Down A Storm

I find it difficult to believe that The Rocky Horror Show is 50 years old, where did the time go? Things have changed over those years, but one thing hasn’t, the audience reaction, we were laughing from the first scene and all on our feet dancing by the fourth song with very little encouragement, and it just continued from there.

Richard Meek as Brad and Haley Flaherty as Janet - photo credit David Freeman
Richard Meek as Brad and Haley Flaherty as Janet - photo credit David Freeman
Since it first opened in London in June 1973 at the Royal Court Theatre The Rocky Horror Show has become the longest continuously running contemporary musical anywhere in the world. I still remember my first experience of the show, just after its birth. I fell in love with the show, dressing up, audience participation and wonderfully irreverent attitudes. I have returned time and again over the years to check on its progress. From small budget and venue with minimal set and lighting, through to big budget, major venue productions with top class light and laser shows. This special anniversary production is set for a limited 6-week tour, and it arrived in Bradford as funny, sexy, and irreverent as ever.

Kristian Lavercombe as Riff Raff - photo credit David Freeman
Kristian Lavercombe as Riff Raff - photo credit David Freeman
For those of you who have never seen the show, it follows the adventures of a clean-cut all-American couple Brad and Janet as their car breaks down leading them to spend a stormy night in a creepy mansion occupied by Frank N Furter and his group of misfits. What follows is a fast-moving night for the audience and cast alike, full of laughs and lace spiced with sexiness and good old fashioned science fiction. Made special every night by the ever-changing audience participation which tests the abilities of the cast to adapt on the hoof.

Based on the old B-movie genre, it broke the mould for musicals, making audience participation a must with audience members aiming to outdo each other (as well as the cast). Packed full of classic songs from full on rock numbers such as Eddie’s Teddy and Whatever Happened To Saturday Night through to ballads like Once In A While and I’m Going Home not forgetting the fans’ favourite all in rollicking dance number Time Warp. The audience are carried along on wave after wave of once heard never forgotten songs.

Stephen Webb as Frank N Furter - photo credit David Freeman
Stephen Webb as Frank N Furter - photo credit David Freeman
Many stars have appeared in the show over the years including Russell Crowe, Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Jerry Springer, Jason Donovan, Meat Loaf, Stephen Fry, Ade Edmondson and the composer/writer himself Richard O’Brien. The cast here includes Stephen Webb who revels as the wonderfully camp Frank N Furter, Jackie Clune who is always in control as the Narrator, managing a witty response to the audience shout outs throughout and Kristian Lavercombe who manages to perfectly portray the part of Riff Raff, the put upon man servant. Richard Meek and Haley Flaherty as the wonderfully naïve Brad and Janet, Darcy Finden the effervescent Columbia full of youthful energy, whilst Suzie McAdam is the dour, world-weary Magenta. All fully supported by Joe Allen as Eddie/Dr Scott, Ben Westhead as Rocky and the Phantoms; Reece Budin, Fionan O’Carroll, Beth Woodcock and Stefania Du Toit.

Be warned though a bold brash show full of fun and laughs it also contains many rude bits, but as Kenny Everett would have said "It’s all done in the best possible taste". It was a real blast from the past for me and I loved it. Transported back to my younger more carefree years. I urge anyone who has missed this show over the 50 years of its non-stop performances and touring to get along and see what over 30 million people have seen in this wonderfully witty, rude, irreverent, tongue in cheek tribute to the B movie genre.

The Rocky Horror Show
Bradford Alhambra until 30 September

Tour dates:

9-14 October - New Theatre, Hull
8-13 January 2024- Sunderland Empire
23-28 January 2024- Opera House, Manchester