Review: Rocky Horror Show – Festival Theatre, April 2023

18th of April, 2023: Rocky Horror Show media call, Adelaide Festival Centre. Photo By Kelly Barnes

Review by Dr Diana Carroll

It’s time for Adelaide audiences to do the Time Warp again as the much-loved musical hits the Festival Theatre stage with a special 50th Anniversary production.

The storyline of this inter-stellar, transsexual, sci-fi romp needs no introduction. The sexual  awakening of newly-engaged clean-cut couple Brad and Janet is deeply etched into our pop culture psyche.  Likewise, the music is so well-known that we can all sing along with no encouragement needed from the performers. Indeed, most of the audience on opening night knew the dialogue word-for-word too, not just the song lyrics. And with this familiarity also comes the interjections from the fans, well-honed from many years of attending the dress-up, sing-along midnight cult screenings at cinemas across the globe. Some may find this irritating, but I love the feeling of ownership this gives the audience.

Despite the hype around this ‘new’ production, it doesn’t stray far from what we know and love. The show opens with Stellar Perry as the ice-cream pink usherette, introducing us to the  “late night double-feature picture show”.  Perry is extremely engaging and has a great voice,  perfect for this role but perhaps just a little too nice when she takes on the more menacing character of Magenta. 

Brad and Janet are played with flair by Ethan Jones and Deirdre Khoo who both bring strong, clear vocals to their roles and find the right balance between stage and cabaret in their delivery.

Award-winning actor David Bedella is impressive  as ‘the master’, with a big ballsy voice, but lacks some of the devilish sex appeal we always associate with Frank-N-Furter. A subtle change of lyrics, replacing “blond hair and a tan”  in the song “I can make you a man”  alerts the audience to the casting of Jamaican-Australian actor Loredo Malcolm as Rocky.  Malcolm has great stage presence and just exudes confidence as he struts his stuff in little more than glitzy jocks and lashings of body oil.

Henry Rollo is superbly suited to the key role of Riff Raff and really owns the stage in his every moment. For the first three performances in Adelaide there was also a special guest appearance by Richard O’Brien, legendary as the original Riff Raff and the show’s creator. The Rocky Horror Show is his baby and he deserves every accolade. Darcey Eagle as Columbia and Ellis Dolan in the dual role of Eddie and Dr Scott round out the cast for this enthusiastic revival.

The show is enhanced by the superb  contribution of the four members of the chorus, Josh Gates, Catty Hamilton, Jackson Reedman, and Erica Wild, here called The Phantoms.  Their dancing and singing was uniformly excellent throughout.

Much-loved media personality Myf Warhurst seemed strangely ill-at-ease in the central role of the narrator, played with melodramatic tones in the film by actor Charles Gray and more recently on stage here by Bert Newton with his usual gusto. In comparison, Warhurst makes a rather bland impression and conveyed little of the charm and chutzpah she delivers on television. Rocky Horror is, after all, pure campy outrageous fun, and a period piece now, so let’s play up to that and live a little. Actor Nicholas Hammond steps in as Narrator from May 2nd when Warhurst leaves for hosting duties at Eurovision.

The sets, staging, and costumes are all superb with a special cheers to Nick Richings for the exceptionally good lighting design. And a big round of applause for the excellent band, led by musical director Jack Earle. Perched high above the set, the five-piece band adds enormously to the rock & roll feel of this production.

Come on, Adelaide, you know you want to “jump to the left, and take a step to the right”, so book your tickets now and get down to the Festival Theatre for some seriously sexy, exuberant, feel-good fun.

Festival Theatre until May 13th

Review by Dr Diana Carroll