Rocky Horror Show | Ambassador Theatre Group and John Frost

Rocky Horror Show | Ambassador Theatre Group and John FrostPhotos – Belinda Strodder

The kinky rock n roll musical seductively covered in fishnet tights makes its return to the Sydney stage in the Lyric Theatre at The Star. To everyone’s delight, Craig McLachlan reprises his role as Frank-n-Furter, a very sweet transvestite. This new incarnation of the somewhat ‘classic’ (yet perhaps more ‘cult-ish’) 1970s musical is bigger and better than ever, sure to excite and entice audiences once more.

Rocky Horror has had quite a history in Oz, starting out in its first production in 1974 with Reg Livermore as Frank. It has since seen many transformations and cast members, which brings us to the brand-spanking-new 2014/2015 production. Richard O’Brien’s crazy sci-fi musical is directed by Christopher Luscombe and presented by Howard Panter for Ambassador Theatre Group and John Frost.

The cast of this production are incredibly well selected and talented as anything. It all starts with the entry of the sweet and innocent couple, Janet (Amy Lehpamer) and Brad (Stephen Mahy) who hammed up the cheese factor in their little cardboard cut-out car. Lehpamer has a sweet booming voice and funnily enough, some extraordinary white teeth. Mahy shows off Brad’s naivety while still retaining quite a strong presence on stage.

Of course you can’t really keep Bert Newtown away from anything, and so he appears in the Narrator role of this show. He pops on and off stage with his oversized book, doing what he does best in a sharp and shiny blue suit. Another character who makes an even briefer appearance is Eddie (Nicholas Christo), however, Christo comes back to the stage as Dr Scott. Here Christo really showcases his versatility as a performer as these characters are (quite literally) worlds apart.

The staging of the musical is dazzling yet not over the top (the costumes more than compensate). This really reinforces the playfulness of the narrative itself which leaks in to the audience and their engagement with what happens on stage. There is more than one opportunity to shout out to the performers on stage, and the reactions (particularly of McLachlan) are very much appreciated by all in attendance. There is glitz and glamour, flashing strobe lighting, velvet textured furniture, and the characters in very little clothing.

The first half of the show seemed only slightly rushed, settling in pace in Act Two. Maybe it was because this reviewer needed to hear a lot more of ’Sweet Transvestite’ and ‘The Time Warp’. But fear not, both are reprised towards the end of the performance. The company were strong vocally but also physically, nailing every move of the time warp, led by the dance captain (Swing) Nicholas Eaton. In actual fact, the cast as a whole had very impressive hip thrusts and isolations (even when the music stopped playing).

Frank’s most loyal followers, Magenta (Jayde Westaby) and Riff Raff (Kristian Lavercombe) were absolutely stunning, really embracing their roles. Westaby also played the Usherette, commanding the stage with her rendition of ‘Science Fiction’, a perfect way to quietly yet provocatively invite the audience in to the world of Rocky Horror and then slowly draw the story to a close. Lavercombe’s interpretation of Riff Raff was spot on, almost becoming a caricature of the character himself. He was full of life from the get-go and retained that energy throughout.

Which brings us to the star of the show, Mr Craig McLachlan as Dr Frank-n-Furter. Some may make the ill-judgement that only Tim Curry could ever really do this role justice, and they would be terribly wrong. Once you see McLachlan as Frank you will be asking, “Tim who?” It isn’t difficult to see why McLachlan was awarded the 2014 Helpmann Award for ‘Best Male Actor in a Musical,’ 20 years after he originally played the part in the 1993 Australian production. His ability to carry himself around for two hours in those heels is enough, but he really connected with the audience, playing off responses, and giving his whole body and voice to the role. He is truly amazing and an absolute joy to watch.

This production of the Rocky Horror Show is very sexy, fun, and at often times quite hilarious. Many diehard fans will dress up in theme, however those who are virgins are encouraged to attend (everybody has to start somewhere).  

Ambassador Theatre Group and John Frost present
Rocky Horror Show
by Richard O’Brien

Directed by Christopher Luscombe

Venue: Sydney Lyric Theatre | Pirrama Rd, Sydney
Dates: April – June 2015
Bookings: | Ph: 1300 795 267

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