The Rocky Horror Show

Richard O'Brien
Howard Panter for Trafalgar Theatre Productions, Mallory Factor for Hill Street Productions
Sheffield Lyceum

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The company of The Rocky Horror Show Credit: David Freeman
The Company of The Rocky Horror Show Credit: David Freeman
The Company of The Rocky Horror Show Credit: David Freeman

An excited, scantily dressed audience waited in a bitter wind for the Lyceum doors to open. Bare arms and legs, fishnet stockings, huge wigs, tattoos, glittering hats and bodices, here was an audience of all ages and sexual preferences who knew just what was expected of them.

The show opens with a charming introductory sequence performed front of curtains by Suzie McAdams as the cinema usherette which sets the mood for all that is to follow. The curtains are drawn to reveal a small car carrying Janet (Haley Flaherty) and Brad (Richard Meek), a pair of uptight young lovers, and introduces Jackie Clune, actor, singer, writer, stand-up comedian, who makes a superb narrator, full of wit and swift replies to the audience’s cheeky and often rude challenges. She is the glue that holds the whole together and the audience loved her.

Brad proposes to Janet, the car breaks down, but Brad has noticed an old mansion a few miles back where they can ask to use the telephone. Wha-ha-ha-ha! The storm breaks (thunder and lightning) and we enter a world of vampires, ghouls, zombies and a handsome ‘creature’ (Ben Westhead) brought to life by Frank N Furter, a close relative of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, played by Stephen Webb, while the rest of the eccentric crew have stepped off the screens of vampire movies or The Addams Family.

The Rocky Horror Show is the brainchild of the young Richard O’Brien who had no expectation that 50 years after the first performance in 1973 at the Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court it would be regarded as a classic of musical theatre, which has had successful performances all over the world and is still drawing audiences in. Early performances in London gave it cult status, it was popular in Japan but bombed on Broadway and the film version made in 1974 was not well attended.

The current production is bursting with energy, full of fun and life enhancing. The music, the lyrics, the songs, the dynamic dance routines enhanced by a group of Phantoms are sheer delight, and production set pieces like the bed routine in the first act, are full of laugh-inducing comedy.

The small band led by musical director Charles Ingles provides a rich rhythmic accompaniment and full tone to the many sung items in the show, and all of the principal singers, notably Stephen Webb as Furter, the lovers Haley Flaherty and Richard Meek and Darcy Finden as Columbia, give impressive and full-throated performances.

Staging and costume (Hugh Durrant and Sue Blane) will provide inspiration for members of the audience queuing up to add items to their Horror wardrobe ready for the next encounter; choreographer Nathan M Wright’s dance routines are exceptionally dynamic, and lighting and sound effects (Nick Richings / Gareth Owen) add greatly to the spooky atmosphere.

Under Christopher Luscombe’s direction,, the production is faithful to the original concept while adding new material where needed. This is a wonderful night out in the theatre, more like attending a large fancy dress party where you dress up and contribute to the fun. The production is embarking on a long UK tour. Do catch it when it comes your way.

Reviewer: Velda Harris