Review by Suzanne Tate
The talented cast of The Rocky Horror Show are once more delighting audiences in Melbourne with the return of the 50th Anniversary production. It is less than 9 months since this production last opened in Melbourne, but the audience are ready for more, and the cast are definitely going to deliver! The current show is racier and crazier than last year’s incarnation. A few new faces have joined the cast, and the show has an edgier feel, pushing the boundaries. Jason Donovan returns in the iconic role of Frank N Furter, and he has raised the intensity of the manic, unhinged side of Frank’s personality even further (which I previously didn’t think was possible!). In contrast, he has also relaxed his delivery in some ways, with a few ad-libbed lines sneaking in (such as mocking the energy of Sunday crowds) and including a few examples of very Aussie sounding swearing. Vocally, Donovan did an outstanding job once more, demonstrating power and versatility.
The entire cast was impressive vocally, with Deidre Khoo returning as Janet, and Blake Bowden joining the cast as Brad, providing flawless performances. The new face of Rocky, Daniel Erbacher, played the part perfectly – with a physique and appearance that was a familiar fit for the part and presenting the character convincingly as an appealing mix of vulnerable and sexy. The most notable addition to the cast, who the audience loved, was Joel Creasey as the Narrator. Creasey seemed to encourage audience participation more than we saw in the previous production and was very confidant in his saucy comebacks. Creasey added a lot of character to his role as the Narrator, telling the story with appropriately exaggerated drama, clearly relishing the opportunity, and had the audience eating out of his hand. The remainder of the principal cast remained unchanged, with Stellar Perry as Magenta and the Usherette, Henry Rollo as Riff Raff, Darcy Eagle as Columbia, and Ellis Dolan as Eddie and Dr Scott. Vocally, the cast could not be faulted – it was a truly impressive musical performance!
The show is visually stunning, with colourful, eye catching sets and dramatic costumes. The costume designs, by Sue Blane, support the character development of each role and help tell the story, such as Riff Raff’s transition from servant to Commander, and the vast changes that occur in the character of Janet. The entire cast even has a separate costume for the curtain call and encore, tying them together as a cohesive unit with red highlights in every outfit.
The set was cleverly designed for transition between scenes, from a light scrim that floated effortlessly away, to the colourful cartoonlike sets, such as the car and external view of the castle, sets that rotated or rolled away to change location, and then the layers of more substantial sets that made up Frank’s castle. An interesting set piece that didn’t seem to visually fit with the theme was an elevated balcony above the main stage that represented a length of film negative, perhaps paying homage to the longevity that has stemmed from the cult success of the 1975 film, as well as the opening and closing numbers by the usherette that allude to story as part of the “late night science fiction double feature”.
Gala Night welcomed a much larger section of the audience that were ready to participate in the traditional ‘call and response’ banter with the narrator than we saw at the opening in 2023. It seemed to be positively encouraged this time round, with Creasey even allowing a practice run with his opening line. Director Christopher Luscombe’s reflection in the programme makes it clear that such audience participation, if respectful, is welcomed, so feel free to join in – just leave the water pistols, rice and toast at home (if you know, you know)! And during the encore – definitely jump up and do the timewarp to end the night on a nostalgic high!
For more details and tickets: https://rockyhorror.com.au/