BWW Review: 'Fabulous and Familiar' ROCKY HORROR SHOW at Artscape Opera House
If a sold-out weekday Artscape Opera House is anything to go by, THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW is undoubtedly a smash hit for all types of theatregoers. Richard O'Brien's beloved cult classic has been running internationally since 1973, and Pieter Toerien and Howard Panter's local presentation of it will have audiences jumping to the left and stepping to the right straight into 2020 with every aspect of this production being a feast for the senses.
A naïve and newly engaged couple happens upon a less-than-inviting castle where they get seduced into a surreal world of the outlandish and ostentatious. Leading the ragtag band of otherworldly beings is the iconic, cross-dressing Dr. Frank N Furter. Craig Urbani is fantastic as Frank N Furter - but as a new take on the well-known character of the mad, seductive scientist. Moving away from the camp-ness of Curry, Urbani is more masculine and intimidating whose faultless baritone is just as impressive as his ability to move sleekly across the stage in sky-high heels. He also has excellent comedic timing which works particularly well against Brad (Anthony Downing) and Janet (Didintle Khunou).
Downing and Khunou make a charming pair from their opening number whose acting and vocals complement each other blisfully. An equally enticing couple is that of Stefania du Toit as Columbia and Marlee van der Merwe as Magenta, where Du Toit is unforgettable for unashamed triple-threat talents that make her hard to look away from. It should also be mentioned that the unique use of a female narrator in the form of Kate Normington was the right choice, as the experienced actress is suave and commanding in a plush velvet suit.
Lastly, Jarryd Nurden and Kristian Lavercombe deserve a mention. Having seen Nurden performing in various ensembles, it's a delight to have this young talent up front as Rocky in this production. Not only is he charismatically electric in the bottle-blonde role, he is also surprisingly and breathtakingly acrobatic. Lavercombe, on the other hand, is clearly comfortable in his role of Riff Raff; as he should be with over 1700 performances in THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW under his wig cap. His comedy is equal parts subtle and in your face, and his laugh is infectious.
Rounding out the small cast are the four Phantoms of the backing chorus who blend seamlessly into the background when needed. Their choreography by Nathan M. Wright is subtle enough so as not to overshadow the foreground action. Wright brings his own and unique spin to classics such as the Time Warp, which retains enough to be familiar while still bringing something new to the production.
Larger ensemble numbers are also lifted by overall direction, thanks to director Christopher Luscombe and resident director Anton Luitingh. It's clear there has been a combination of the experience of Luscombe with the fresh take of Luitingh to produce this production of a well-known rock 'n roll musical. Combined with a set, costume and lighting design to enchant, the ambience of this cheeky show is over-the-top and "titillatingly, adolescently naughty"- just as O'Brien likes it.
If you're looking to end your decade with a fabulous and familiar romp, then look no further than THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW.
Photo credit: Jesse Kramer
THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW will be performed at Artscape Opera House until 12 January 2020, and at Teatro, Montecasino from 17 January 2020 to 1 March 2020. Tickets ranging from R100 to R500 can be booked via Computicket outlets or by following this link.