Rocky n Roll: Review of Ambassador Theatre Group’s Rocky Horror Picture Show
Little did Richard O’Brien know in 1973, as he wrote his homage to the early horror and science fiction films of his childhood that he was creating what was to become one of the most successful cult musicals of all time, The Rocky Horror Show.
After Brad and Janet’s car breaks down in the middle of a storm they are forced to seek help at the nearby gothic mansion. Inside, though, they stumble upon a group of kinky aliens, led by the outrageous Dr Frank-N-Furter – mad scientist and sexual deviant extraordinaire. From there their phantasmagorical journey of sexual awakening begins. O’Brien no doubt knew his source material well: there are many gothic allusions: from the stormy night, the creepy manor, and of course the numerous Frankenstein overtones. The gothic represents the darker inner working of humanity, the forbidden, the dangerous and the sensual, so it is only fitting that one of the most beloved stories of sexual awaken takes place amid the relics of the horror and gothic genres. Of course the real allure of Rocky Horror lies in the glitz, the glam and the delicious excess, and this show serves it up in abundance, with a pitch perfect band and some very strong performances.
The show is built around the role of Frank-N-Furter, played by the magnanimous Craig McLachlan. In full transvestite getup, McLachlan gave Frank-N-Furter a large dose of masculinity, which intelligently avoids comparison to Tim Curry. Simply put, McLachlan was a force majeure; he led the ensemble effortlessly and was both strong and generous in character. McLachlan also had a penchant for breaking the fourth wall, which worked (most of the time) to relax the audience.
Amy Lehpamer plays Janet, our ‘heroine’ and Stephen Mahy plays Brad, our ‘hero’. Both Lehpamer and Mahy were perfect Broadway leads – highly polished with a strong sound, importantly maintaining their energy levels throughout the show. However, it was Kristian Lavercombe as Riff Raff who was the standout. In this production, voices would occasionally clash with the band, creating a cacophony of sound that was hard to follow. Lavercombe, on the other hand, pierced through with such clarity, possessing a sound entirely unmatched by the rest of the cast. Lavercombe’s vocal control was impeccable and his Riff Raff, whilst similar to the film, was excellent.
The supporting cast was equally solid, even if sometimes occasioning thankless roles. This was the case for Jayde Westaby as Magenta, though she seized the moment when given the chance. Brendan Irving as Rocky was a flawless work of living art, and whilst his was a rendition similar to the film, he did it well and was a generous performer. Angelique Cassimatis was enjoyable as Columbia, and an obviously skilled tap dancer. Cassimatis was also able to carry some of the dramatic tension within the musical, adding an extra layer to her characterisation. Nicholas Christo played both the roles of Eddie and Doctor Scott; Christo’s Eddie left us with a memorable impression of a grunge Elvis-type, whereas his Dr Scott was a nice contrast, providing a side of comic relief.
Finally, we could never forget the legendary Bert Newton as our Narrator. Newton’s distinctive voice was wonderfully received (he was met with thunderous applause at first sight) and it was a pleasure to watch this Australian icon on stage. If you’re lucky, he might even join you for the ‘Time Warp’.
The production starts to lose steam in the back end of the second act, but then Rocky Horror always does. Director, Christopher Luscombe made a wise decision reprising ‘The Time Warp’ as the show’s closing encore; it get things pumping and finishes everything off on a high note. While a slightly larger ensemble may not have gone astray here, this a thoroughly enjoyable production, full of laughs and eye candy for all. The Rocky Horror Show is playing at the Lyric Theatre until the 7th of June. For more information see: http://rockyhorror.com.au/tickets/sydney/