It's official: The Rocky Horror Show is returning to the Athenaeum Theatre in 2024. The 50th anniversary tour will continue its celebration of the rock 'n' roll musical starring Jason Donovan as Frank-N-Furter and Joel Creasey as the Narrator from February 9 until March 10. You can book tickets online via the website here.
You can read our review of the production from 2023 below.
“It’s astounding; time is fleeting…” so go the opening lines of ‘Time Warp’, the instantly recognisable number from Richard O’Brien’s still exhilaratingly transgressive rock musical-turned-movie The Rocky Horror Show.
My brain can’t quite compute that we’ve been jumping to the left and stepping to the right with our hands on our hips and our knees in tight for 50 years now – five of which spun out before I was even born. An entire half century has passed since newly engaged naïve young things Brad (a perma-perky Ethan Jones, fresh from 9 to 5 the Musical) and Janet (Deirdre Khoo, Once, adorable) bust a tire and tread unwittingly into dastardly Dr Frank-N-Furter’s creepy castle, burning bright in the velvet darkness.
Former Neighbours star Jason Donovan pops the song’s pelvic thrust as he steps back into Frank’s high heels once more, plus a leather corset and stockings as the renegade Frank, the mad scientist from the planet Transexual who, in just seven days, can make himself a ma-aaaaaa-aaaaan.
Here the marbled, Charles Atlas-like test tube perfection Rocky is portrayed with wide-eyed innocence by Jamaican-born dancer and choreographer Loredo Malcolm, whose stitch-like tattoos fittingly call to mind Frankenstein’s Monster from gothic author Mary Shelley’s sci-fi horror urtext. It’s just a shame that Frank’s quest for bodily perfection has cast off both loyal servant Columbia (Darcey Eagle) and her ex Eddie (Ellis Dolan, better when depicting Frank’s older UFO-investigating nemesis Dr Scott).
With a gender and sexuality blurring appetite as big as Frank’s, still pushing buttons all these years later, it’s only a matter of time before Brad and Janet’s eyes are opened to unimaginable pleasures. It’s just a shame, for them, that this sets off a chain reaction of jealous betrayal that spirals out of control and into an unfortunate body count via a still oddly emotional denouement worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy – except it's fun!
Chances are you’ve seen Jim Sharman’s 1975 movie, which carried over the irrepressible Tim Curry as Frank, Nell Campbell as Columbia plus Richard O’Brien and Patricia Quinn as Frank’s faithful to a point servants Riff Raff and Magenta (Henry Rollo and Stellar Perry here) from the original 1973 stage production. Heck, if you’re into musical theatre, you’ve probably seen the show a few times since then, too, perhaps even with Donovan in charge. So how does director Christopher Luscombe’s 50th-anniversary production measure up?
There are great elements and those that don’t quite sing. Donovan is a more laid-back Frank than Curry – honestly, aren’t they all? – but what he lacks in Curry’s confusingly sexy chaos energy appeal, he adds in a lasciviously lizard-like tongue action that’s admittedly disconcerting. Jones and Khoo have a hoot surrendering to Frank’s wicked ways in their infamous bedroom dalliances. Malcolm brings a sparkly pep to Rocky’s seven-hour-old existence, and Rollo rocks Riff Raff’s otherworldly manoeuvres. The rest of the ensemble is enjoyable enough, if not stand-out. Myf Warhrust, a national living treasure, hasn’t quite settled into the role of narrator as yet.
They all nail choreographer Nathan M Wright’s toe-tapping dance numbers, co-corralled by musical director Jack Earle’s sadly off-stage band, particularly in a dazzling climax set ablaze by lighting designer Nick Richings. Perhaps the biggest disappointment here is Hugh Durrant’s somewhat perfunctory set that’s more amateur dramatic panto than, say, the much more inventive use of the admittedly dinky Athenaeum stage deployed recently by Cruel Intentions.
Maybe the parts, stitched like Frank’s laboratory meddling, don’t quite add up to the necessary pizzazz required of a 50th-anniversary outing of a show that’s never very far from our stages. Still the reality is, O’Brien’s timelessly saucy wit and sassy songs will have you hip-thrusting in the aisles after two hours regardless, “In another dimension, with voyeuristic intention… that really drives you insa-aaa-aaaa-aaane.”