BWW Reviews: THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, New Wimbledon Theatre, January 21 2013
I spoke to a guy in the row behind me - twentysomething, he was dressed in basque, suspenders and heels. "How many times have you seen it?" "Never - this is my first time." That pretty much tells you all you need to know about the enduring appeal of The Rocky Horror Show - still gathering new fans to join in with the old hands forty years on from its opening.
One part rock musical, one part panto and one part freakshow, Richard O'Brien's tale of straitlaced Brad and Janet, the sweet transvestite Frank, his creature Rocky and dancing aliens is as fresh today as it was when Richard was Riff-Raff, leading the troupe in the signature Timewarp (kids, think Gangnam style - only funnier). Cultish gimmickry (and all the audience participation, pauses and eyebrow-arching double entendres are on show in Christopher Luscombe's production) can only go so far. Rocky is still emerging from Frank's man-making machine every night, like a less camp Tom Daley, because it's a great show.
The songs are superb - from the scene-setting Science Fiction/Double Feature, through the Gilbert and Sullivanish Dammit Janet to the introduction of Frank singing his anthem Sweet Transvestite. Though the storyline isn't quite a feelgood fest, there's always The Narrator on hand with a gag and a bit of verbal jousting with the more outré occupants of the stalls - and there's the Timewarp as an encore too.
The latest lucky couple to clamber into the vertical bed with Frank (Oliver Thornton - more Freddie Mercury than Tim Curry, buT Loving it all the same) are Ben Forster and Roxanne Pallett, who sing well and look right as Brad and Janet. The X-Factor's Rhydian is a muscly, hyperactive Rocky and there's good support from a young cast as Frank's servants. Narrator Philip Franks' Shakespearean tones and waspish wit comes within an ace of stealing the show, the veteran having as much fun as anyone.
Mr Franks (and ain't "Phil Franks" just the best name ever for an actor in Rocky?) didn't quite steal the show because someone else did. Leading the last Timewarp of the night was a man arriving late to the stage, but one we all recognised - he used to present The Crystal Maze...