Before I write this, I have to confess that I LOVE Rocky Horror Show and have been captivated by it since I first saw it many moons ago. Any theatrical show in which audience contraband is considered to be rice, confetti and water pistols has to be OK with me.
The Regent has always been blessed with fantastic productions of this show (whose origins started in the West End on 19th June 1973) and this one is no different. The powerhouse of the musical by the fantastic Richard O’Brien has made its way through 49 years and still leaves audiences in ‘antici……………….pation’ and wows fresh new generations of Rocky Horror fans. Its as much popular today, as it is relevant, as when it launched with themes running through it of self identity and sexuality.
For those unfamiliar with the storyline, two newly engaged, fresh-faced, squeaky clean college sweethearts Brad Majors and Janet Weiss decide to travel to inform their previous tutor (Dr. Everett Scott) of their upcoming nuptials, only to find themselves stranded with car trouble. They happen to then knock on the door of Dr. Frank N Furter in a bid for assistance, unbeknown to them as a transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania, who is trying to craft his perfect partner in his laboratory. Cue hilarity, barnstorming songs and dance routines and a peek into an alternate world for Brad and Janet.
We have some familiar faces returning with the cast from the last showing at The Regent, including Welsh actor Kristian Lavercombe who, once again, gives a fantastic performance of Riff Raff, with his trademark subservience and awkwardness, whilst adding humour and belting out the vocals and dance moves with aplomb. I must say in the several times I have seen Kristian in Rocky, he has delivered every time. I believe he is close to clocking up (if not already clocked up) 2000 performances of the show which is brilliant and deserves hardy congratulations!
Stephen Webb stars as Frank n Furter and is magnificent. His vocals and stage presence are top drawer and he sings and dances his way through a brilliant portrayal of one of stage and screen’s most iconic characters. His make-up is all his own (as revealed in our interview with him last week) and he certainly makes this role his own too. It’s a long way from his former role in Jersey Boys, its less Jersey and more Bodice, but goes to demonstrate his versatility as an actor.
The steadfast Philip Franks is a new face from the previous Steve Punt as the narrator. Philip, known to most from TV credits including Heartbeat and Darling Buds Of May, is brilliant in the role and brings humour aplenty into the proceedings, including local references slipped in (he has done his homework). He toys brilliantly with the audience, with impeccable delivery and timing, awaiting their trademark heckles coming “on-cue” of which he is the architect-in-chief of the set up line for their involvement.
Haley Flaherty stars as Janet Weiss and provides fantastic vocals, especially during ‘Touch-a-Touch-Me’ and takes on the development from virginal college student to her second-half transition as a re-awakened woman. She is a great partner for former Strictly Come Dancing contestant, Ore Oduba who plays her bespectacled sweetheart Brad Majors. His dancing skills on the popular BBC show were never in doubt, but would he be able to craft a performance of equal talent with a pair of stilettos on?….. of course he does, and doesn’t he do it in style adding a great acting performance alongside too. They also duet strongly on ‘Damn It, Janet’ and ‘Superheroes’.
Magenta and Columbia (two of Dr. Frank N Furter’s assistance) are played excellently by Suzie McAdam and Lauren Ingram and add to the hilarity, also carrying off their singing and dancing roles extremely well. Ben Westhead plays the newly born Rocky expertly with a strong vocal performance during ‘Sword of Damocles’. Joe Allen is Dr. Everett Scott and rocks the house with the toe-tapping ‘Eddie’.
Stoke has always loved Rocky Horror and a raucous Regent Theatre was testament to that fact. It took less than ten minutes for the whole auditorium to be on its feet dancing away and a marvellously crafted multi-coloured sign made by one audience member took a bit-part and left the rest of the audience in fits of laughter. It’s fantastic to see new viewers of Rocky Horror coming along as well as returning fans, as the ‘Time Warp’ says, ‘with a bit of a mind-flip’ all newcomers are wow’d, it’s great to see them following the storyline and realising that audience participation isn’t so much optional as mandatory, whether singing, dancing or heckling!