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The Rocky Horror Show

  • Theatre, Musicals
  • Theatre Royal Sydney, Sydney
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. Dylan Alcott with the cast of Rocky Horror - Sydney 2024
    Photograph: Rocky Horror/Daniel Boud
  2. Dylan Alcott in Rocky Horror - Sydney 2024
    Photograph: Rocky Horror/Daniel Boud
  3. Ellis Dolan and cast in The Rocky Horror Show - Sydney 2023
    Photograph: Rocky Horror/Daniel Boud
  4. Jason Donovan in The Rocky Horror Show - Sydney 2023
    Photograph: Rocky Horror/Daniel Boud
  5. The cast of Rocky Horror - Sydney 2024
    Photograph: Rocky Horror/Daniel Boud
  6. The cast of Rocky Horror - Sydney 2024
    Photograph: Rocky Horror/Daniel Boud
  7. Stellar Perry in The Rocky Horror Show - Sydney 2023
    Photograph: Rocky Horror/Daniel Boud
  8. Deidre Khoo and Ethan Jones in The Rocky Horror Show - Sydney 2023
    Photograph: Rocky Horror/Daniel Boud
  9. Darcey Eagle in The Rocky Horror Show - Sydney 2023
    Photograph: Rocky Horror/Daniel Boud

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Dylan Alcott and good hecklers are the secret ingredient of a hilarious night with this naughty cult classic show

For many of us, our first introduction to The Rocky Horror Show involved a beaten up VHS tape and an exhilarating brew of conflicting feelings about Tim Curry’s iconic fishnet-stocking-clad role as Frank-N-Furter – the cross-dressing mad scientist alien from Transsexual, Transylvania. Beyond its immortalisation in the cult classic 1975 film, this rollicking rock’n’roll musical has been continuously on a stage somewhere in the world ever since it premiered to a small London audience in 1973 – and while today’s slick mainstage productions are a far cry from its grungy roots, there’s still no denying the appeal of doing ‘The Time Warp’ again.

After touring around the country, Australia’s 50th anniversary production of Rocky Horror has taken a jump to the left (and a step to the right) to land back at Sydney’s Theatre Royal, about a year after it premiered at the same venue in the same month as Sydney WorldPride, with a couple of notable cast changes this time. It appears that the time on the road has done this company a world of good; the cast take to the stage with a more relaxed and playful energy as they tackle this risqué, silly, borderline-pantomime musical. 

Former Australian of the Year and Paralympian Dylan Alcott is a delight to witness in his stage acting debut as The Narrator. With good humour, an ability to roll with the punches, and an injection of signature charm, Alcott nails the difficult-to-pin-down prerequisites to fill this role. The Narrator must be someone already famous with the local audience (*tick*), who can play with the material and make it their own (*tick*), and ideally, has a queer-positive and sex-positive attitude (*tick*). As a bonus, it is a nice change to see an actual wheelchair user on the Rocky Horror stage (let alone any mainstage show). For this Sydney season, Dylan shares the role with comedian Peter Helliar

Having a small cohort of die-hard Rocky Horror fans in the theatre, yelling out classic call back lines, can make the experience ten times better...

Once again, Henry Rollo (Jagged Little Pill) is a standout as the hunchbacked manservant Riff Raff – milking every syllable and every physical quirk, with a powerful comedic presence and belting classic rock vocals to boot. Together with Stellar Perry (The Lovers) rocking the slutty-French-maid attire as Magenta, this duo is a light (over at the Frankenstein place) of freaky brilliance. 

Jason Donovan (of ’80s heartthrob and ex-boyfriend of Kylie Minogue fame) is having the time of his life as Frank-N-Furter; his performance as the wacky antagonist has a lived-in sense of mischief now, handled with tenderness. From the moment he slinks out from the shadows for ‘Sweet Transvestite’ through to the swan song of ‘Going Home’, his spirited performance is grounded in a masterful control of his voice.

However, there’s still something uncomfortable about modern mainstream musical theatre’s take on Frank-N-Furter, and the treatment of the show’s queer themes more broadly. When done right, Frank can be strangely alluring, charming, and a perfect allegory for how people who don’t fit into society’s assigned binaries can feel like “aliens” in this world. (It must be noted, while this character does subvert gender norms and exists under the trans umbrella, Frank is not canonically a transgender woman. However, uneducated or willfully ignorant audiences will no doubt equate a character in drag with a transgender woman, and the persistence of casting straight blokes who we’ve seen on Neighbours at some point in the topline role of Rocky Horror only adds to the confusion. Just watch Disclosure on Netflix.)

Is it any wonder that Frank would literally invent a man in his mansion’s laboratory to love him (and relieve his tension)? Donning the leopard-print budgie smugglers, newcomer Daniel Erbacher cuts a fine figure as Rocky, the loveable himbo exception of the “born sexy yesterday” trope (you’ve gotta be smart to play dumb that well). 

Meanwhile, Blake Bowden and Deidre Khoo return as the adorably innocent and newly engaged Brad and Janet. Caught out with a flat tyre and beholden to the Transylvanian’s strange hospitality while they wait out a storm, their journey is a hilarious cautionary parody about the pitfalls of following the rules of a well behaved, conservative life. While the eruption of sexual liberation they both experience within the walls of the Frankenstein Place has questionable lines of influence and consent, Brad and Janet’s liberation reads as a much more freeing transformation than Sandy’s leather-clad makeover at the climax of Grease. (Don’t dream it, be it!)

This production also makes an effort to break free of all-white casting, though Brad’s casual misogyny towards Janet does get a somewhat uncomfortable, even fetishising implication when his fiancée is played by an Asian woman. (Really Brad, you can’t remember how to say her last name?) However, Khoo holds her own as Janet, charting the character from her withdrawn and nervous early scenes into a sexually liberated woman in ‘Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me’, and sealing it with some real belter moments during ‘Super Heroes’ in the show’s final moments. 

Under the direction of Christopher Luscombe, who has overseen various international tours of Rocky Horror, this production bursts onto the stage in a high camp flurry. Hugh Durrant’s sets are shiny and full of tricks; Nathan M Wright’s choreography is exciting, with shocks of phantom dancers bursting out from behind set pieces and tinsel curtains; and Nick Richings’ lighting design is an explosion of colour – in moments, dazzling lasers cascade across the audience (which all looks pretty impressive, up until a rogue beam hits you directly in the eyeball).

Audience interaction is an essential ingredient for a good time with this show, and has been a staple of live performances since the ’70s. Having a small cohort of die-hard Rocky Horror fans in the theatre, yelling out classic call back lines, can make the experience ten times better. On the contrary, having theatregoers in the house who disregard the etiquette and yell out random things for the hell of it – or worse, a dead silent audience – can take the whole night down a notch. (Refer to this production’s guidelines for audience participation to hit the right notes.)

The undeniable cult credentials of Rocky Horror mean that fans will always be shivering with antici...pation for a taste of it. The fact that it’s only been just shy of a decade since the country’s previous production of Rocky landed in Sydney – and that that production was marred by controversy – does little to deter people from heading to the theatre in their fishnets. 

Whether delivered on stage or screen, Rocky Horror has played a key role in countless queer awakenings. Nowadays, we have a much richer diversity of media to seek representation in (with more up-to-date language – “transvestite” isn’t a word you should throw around with wild abandon nowadays, for example) but this off-beat musical penned by an oddball New Zealander with a love of science fiction and B-grade horror movies will forever hold a hallowed status as a revelatory text for outcasts the world over. 

Having been produced and reproduced for decades now, can Rocky Horror maintain the subversive, rough-and-ready brilliance that made it so iconic in the first place? Perhaps not. (I can’t help but have skin-crawling flashbacks to clocking conservative posterboy Alan Jones sitting behind me the first time I saw this production.) But perhaps the message is in the eye of the beholder?

We can and should celebrate iconic shows like this. Who doesn’t love a little bit of song and dance, and a little bit of crossdressing? We can have nice things, but maybe we can also choose to make them better. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations of theatregoers and misfits. For Rocky Horror fans, it’s worth coming down to the lab to see what’s on the slab (nostalgia, and all-star performances). But if you want to see something truly radical, you better wise up and check out some of the incredible indie theatre, new musicals, queer art and gay dancefloors on the Sydney scene.

The Rocky Horror Show is playing a strictly limited season at the Theatre Royal Sydney. Tickets start at $69.90 and are on sale now, and you can nab them over at

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Event website:
Theatre Royal Sydney
25 Martin Place
108 King St
From $69.90+bf
Opening hours:
Tue-Sat 7.30pm + Sat 2pm, Sun 1pm + 6pm

Dates and times

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