Left – Michelle Smitheram, Rob Mallett, Craig McLachlan. Cover – Amanda Harrison, Kristian Lavercombe. Photos – Jeff Busby
Imagine, New Year’s Eve, a highly expectant full house at the re-opened Adelaide Festival Theatre and the fun about to begin. Lights down, a riveting opening blast from the orchestra – and the audience erupts – even before the curtain opens.
As the canny business woman, Elizabeth Arden, said, “Repetition makes reputation and reputation makes customers.” The Rocky Horror Show certainly has a reputation for being cult theatre and bright red boas on every other seat in the auditorium acknowledge that the audience is in on the act. The boas were worn there and on the way home as a badge of honour so getting reactions to the show was easy both before and afterwards. The cult label brings in audiences in droves but each show has to maintain the show’s dynamic reputation or it will fade. There are no fears with the current version in Adelaide because it maintains and amplifies the high praise. This two-hour performance started at 9.30 p.m. just two hours after the curtain closed on the previous show and yet the energy and vigour of everyone involved was a credit to them all.
It’s a science fiction, (for proof get the opening song sung by Amanda Harrison) horror, death and destruction, oft-repeated story with a difference. It goes like this. A 60s nerdy young man, Brad (Rob Mallet) and prim, pretty woman, Janet (Michelle Smitheram) are driving home from a wedding when Brad confesses his love in a bright song, “Damn it, Janet” which ends in a proposal, gleefully accepted. Both have very pleasant singing voices. Their happy high comes to an abrupt reality check when the car blows a tyre. A two mile walk in the rain later, they see a light. Ah! a house (albeit a castle), a phone and rescue – they think. Until the door opens.
It is Riff Raff (Kristian Lavercombe) the epitome of every crooked butler you ever saw with a touch of Marty Feldman and Shakespeare’s Richard III. Invited in, they are not keen but have no choice really and are confronted by the weird mob who live there. Then, in a grand musical and lighting build-up, enters the Master, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, complete with fetching make-up, high-heeled shoes, pearls, a full length cloak and a very sexy outfit underneath. Star-spangled indeed, even the red shoes like Dorothy’s in The Wizard of Oz. Surprise, surprise! Can it really be Craig McLachlan, the mild-mannered doctor sleuth in the Dr. Blake series on television? The glossy programme says it is but never, by voice or action on stage can the two be linked. This is a dynamic, suggestive, funny, very likeable, noisy, egotistical transvestite whose timing, inflection, looks, dancing and singing indicate he has lived this character before and has now matured into just the right man for the role, the Dr. Frank N Furter.
The script benefits from little additions here and there on its journey through the theatres of the world and our own “The vote was overwhelmingly ‘yes’” was warmly received. Members of the audience, lovers of this show, were ready for him, interjecting and at times singing along. When Frank said he was going to take us on a journey, a young female hopefully cried out, “Take me!” When the cast, including the narrator (Cameron Daddo) tutors the audience in the intricacies of The Time Warp dance, it is clear they already know a thing or two about that.
Back to the story. Two things soon become clear to the hapless young lovers – one that there is something murky going on in that Transylvanian-type castle and two, there are aspects of their own characters, of which they never dreamed, which are becoming uncontrollable. Oops! Can their love survive these revelations and that the good doctor has been playing at being Dr. Frankenstein? Well, he has and Rocky (Brendan Irving) is a fine example – complete with leopard skin briefs – of what Charles Atlas, body builder, was on about? It gives the song that Frank N Furter sings, “I can make you a man” a double meaning.
The 4 piece band, under its Musical Director, Dave Skelton, is pretty much hidden up high at the back of the stage but doesn’t hide its light under a bushel as far as music is concerned. Wow! A raft of talented back-stage crew and those on stage are guided through the tricky waters of a big production like this by the director, Christopher Luscombe.
It is rare to see a 100% standing ovation at the end of a show and then to see the whole audience swaying and singing to a song and dance like “Let’s Do The Time Warp Again”. But that’s The Rocky Horror Show for you. See it before it ends on the 13th January in this bright, brand- new year.
Howard Panter, John Frost and GWB Entertainment presents
The Rocky Horror Show
by Richard O'Brien
Director Christopher Luscombe
Venue: Festival Theatre, Adelaide | King William Road, Adelaide SA
Dates: 28 December 2017 – 13 January 2018
Tickets: $59.90 – $144.90
Bookings: bass.net.au | 131 246