Sequins, sparkles, and sweet transvestites make a welcome return to Manchester’s Opera House as Richard O’Brien’s THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW takes to the stage
In a week that Manchester hosts Pride, it seems only fitting that the Opera House hosts Richard O’Brien’s cult classic THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW with all its sequins, sparkles, and sweet transvestites – and that’s just the audience. It is a sign that life is beginning to return to some degree of normality.
Even if you’ve never seen THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW on stage, you’re sure to know the story. It’s been nearly 50 years since O’Brien created the show, its popularity slowly growing over time to eventually become the cult classic it is today.
Yet some people haven’t experienced the raunch and spectacle that is Brad Majors, the nerdy college kid who, together with his fiancée Janet Weise, stumble upon the creepy castle of Dr Frank N Furter. The pair get drawn into a series of spectacular events, from the murder of the delivery guy Eddie to the creation of a man. It really is a time warp, all-singing, all-dancing, must-see show.
What makes THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW so special is that it is easy for the audience to immerse themselves fully in the legendary show. In fact, audience “partici…pation” is actively encouraged, and the cast seems almost disappointed if their lines don’t illicit a pun or two from the crowd.
Of course, the subject of the pandemic and current foreign policy cannot be avoided altogether. The show’s narrator, reprised by Philip Franks, seamlessly inserts several jokes about political figures and recent events, reacting with quick wit to the heckles from the stalls.
But it is the exuberant cast that truly makes the show, with strong vocal performances from each member and gleeful ensemble dance numbers.
ROCKY HORROR veteran Kristin Lavercombe, who has starred in more than 1,800 renditions of the show and is the longest-running performer in its 48-year history, is excellent as a stooped Riff Raff, transforming into an upright leader on his return to the homeland.
Ore Oduba – the live event broadcaster who previously won STRICTLY COME DANCING – seems as odd choice as Brad but shows real vulnerability as the clean-cut nerd, demonstrating some impressive comedic value and engaging musical numbers. Oduba is, in fact, a musicals veteran, having starred in GREASE and CURTAINS previously.
Stephen Webb makes for a very impressive villain, and his ability to show the two sides of the outrageous character Frank-N-Furter is iconic. His comic timing, dancing, and strut in heels bring the room to its feet for his most notable solo of SWEET TRANSVESTITE, and his powerful voice is remarkable.
But it is female leads Haley Flaherty as Janet, Lauren Ingram as Columbia, and Suzie Mcadam as Magenta who truly stands out with their exceptional vocals. Ingram’s emotions at the loss of Eddie and her performance when she is drugged shows her ability as a performer to switch between moments with ease, adding touches of comedy in an already punchy comedy show.
Hugh Durrants set is interesting, with the film strip border used as a window at points in the show. Sue Blanes costume design also warrants a mention. It’s hard to adapt the familiar costumes from the original film – especially as a large part of the audience is dressed in their own versions of their favourite incarnation. Still, the end number in red is simply stunning.
The band also deserves mention for their performance of the classic songs whilst towering over the set, despite being covered in the rising smoke from the stage at one point.
With a highly professional cast and crew at the helm of this touring production, THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW maintains its signature uniqueness and raw sex appeal. These very things keep loyal fans coming back for more, more, more.
THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW runs at the Opera House, Manchester until 29 August 2021.
Vikki Rutter is a North West review writer, working in the glamorous world of TV. Lover of travel and cats, although travelling cats not so much.