Photos – Jeff Busby
In his fascinating and extensive programme forward, theatre historian Frank Van Straten OAM recounts the history of The Rocky Horror Show in Australia and it’s astounding to think that loyal fans have been jumping to the left and stepping to the right for well over 40 years.
Anyone who knows Rocky, knows that lavish sets are for other musicals and that wardrobe is certainly not the largest backstage department. Knowing exactly the kind of bang you’re getting for your theatrical buck is therefore all about good fun, comparison and nostalgia. While I have absolutely no doubt about the existence of those who have seen every incarnation of the show across those four decades, for me, it’s been quite some time and it was, for a few fabulous hours, fun to once again be lost in time, and lost in space and meaning.
The score of this cult hit remains as enduring as its fans and it would be perilous indeed to mess with either, however, if you are going to risk heresy, it’s really only worth considering when your star vehicle is as capable as Todd McKenney. While it doesn’t feel remotely surprising or even strange to see him don Dr Frank-N-Furters Basque and Fishnets, it does seem incredible that he has never played this role before because basically – he’s perfect. Funny, fabulous and absolutely filthy, Todd McKenney knows an audience. As one of Australia’s most versatile performers, this stint in high heels is a fantastic opportunity to showcase his all-rounder attributes in abundance. McKenney’s refreshing and fantastic interpretations of a few of the shows standards genuinely erased any feelings of being merely a cog in a sure bet. McKenney absolutely deserves his place on the roll call of former ‘Franks’ that reads like a wiki page of Australian entertainment.
But Rocky isn’t just a one Tran show. On offer in this production is a seriously hardworking, talented and energetic company and some standout out vocal performances. Amanda Harrisons opening and closing Usherette numbers were particularly memorable as was Rob Mallettes big voiced turn as Brad. Kristian Lavercombe is a Rocky veteran after over 1200 performances and as Riff Raff, he’s physically and vocally spot on.
Particularly impressive was a more effective use of additional cast than I remember in previous productions. Phantoms, as I recall, would hang out in the auditorium terrorising the incoming audience and then be relegated to a sound booth to give the show some vocal depth. Seeing bigger numbers padded out with more people on stage really helps the show from feeling thin.
Stepping well away from Kenny’s ‘Strine’ tones and poshing things up a bit with a good dose of RP; Shane Jacobson is the other big name on the bill for this Melbourne season. Scoring several decent laughs across the evening with some quick witted, topical and character breaking retorts to anticipated good-natured heckling, Jacobson is eloquent, dandy and nose tappingly irreverent as The Narrator.
While a hard-core fan base pretty much assures you an audience, you’re also appeasing die-hards mouthing your every word, lusting for set pieces and trusting you not to mess with their obsession. At interval and conclusion, I saw and heard no evident disappointment.
If you were waiting for a verdict before buying a ticket, don’t – this run is short, and Todd McKenney is seriously good.
Richard O'Brien’s Rocky Horror Show is back in Melbourne – and it’s a great night out.
Gordon Frost Organisation and GWB Entertainment presents
The Rocky Horror Show
by Richard O'Brien
Director Christopher Luscombe
Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne VIC
Dates: 12 July – 26 August 2018
Tickets: from $55.00