The Rocky Horror ShowPhotos – Brian Geach

After about a week of previews and so many earlier visits, the opening night of Rocky Horror wasn’t so much a big reveal as a warm welcome home.

The audience was quivering with anticipation even before the raggedy curtain was pulled aside and the thunderous applause that greeted narrator Bert Newton meant he had to wait several minutes before he could speak.

While Richard O’Brien’s original 1973 creation was scripted for the stage, it is the movie version that has kept the dream alive and generated audiences – and cult followings – since 1975. So inevitably each production since then will always carry the burden of living up to fans’ expectations, especially in terms of casting.

While Craig McLachlan’s Frank’n’Furter might not mince with quite the languorous menace that Tim Curry’s did, his voice and saucy shenanigans are gorgeous and seduced the audience into his wild world of fishnets and free love, despite the slight stiffness that always pervades opening night. Which is why he won the Helpmann award for best male actor in a musical last year, of course. If you've never seen him act outside of Neighbours and The Dr Blake Mysteries, it's worth seeing Rocky just to see him in such a different role.

His bed scenes are particular brilliant.

It is also reassuring to see that the plot – such as it is – has survived the past 40 years with its sense of humour and relevance still intact. With retro nostalgia still as strong as ever for classic cinema, even the references to and parodies of historic film fiasco have lost none of their edge.  

Combining straight-laced all-American ingénues, elements of Frankenstein, a bit of burlesque, some sci-fi and androgynous aliens – plus heaps of sexual tension and some excellent songs – how could you possibly go wrong? Movie fans who have never seen a stage production can relax: the transition is painless and often intriguingly clever. Radio mast, motorbikes and rain might be missing but somehow you hardly notice. 

Bert Newton reveals a mischievous side as the Narrator – and offers a surprise reveal at the end – while the timeless songs give relative newcomers Stephen Mahy (Brad) and Amy Lehpamer (Janet) a chance to shine. Brendan Irving is immaculately well sculpted to fit the role of Rocky, while Angelique Cassimatis is a perfect Columbia.

The orchestra – tucked away on a mezzanine disguised by a railing disguised as a roll of celluloid – hold the whole show together in just the right measure.

In fact the only disappointment for die-hard fans is that you can’t throw rice or squirt water pistols as you might at the midnight showing in some deliciously seedy cinema. Oh – and not enough people stood up to dance to the Time Warp.

I might have to go back to remedy that.

Howard Painter for Ambassador Theatre Group and John Frost present
Richard O'Brien's
The Rocky Horror Show

Venue: Comedy Theatre, Melbourne
Dates: 12 June – 12 July 2015
Times: Tues 7pm, Wed–Sat 8pm, Sat matinee 2pm, Sunday 1pm & 5.30pm
Tickets: from $69.90
Bookings: ticketmaster.com.au | 1300 111 011
Visit: rockyhorror.com.au