The Rocky Horror Show – Review – York Grand Opera House

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The Rocky Horror Show – Review

York Grand Opera House, June 2019

by Roger Crow / @RogerCrow

I’ve spent more than three decades loving The Rocky Horror Show. I’ve seen the movie so often, every line of dialogue and actor’s nuance has become etched into my brain. And little wonder. The 1975 version of the stage hit is one of those perfect films, which looks as good today as it did when it was released.

The fact I’ve never seen the stage version live is one of life’s weird anomalies, like being a Take That fan, and never seeing them live until this year. So when offered the opportunity to attend opening night at York’s Grand Opera House, naturally I jump at the chance.

Ideally it would have been 30 years earlier as a student when a bunch of mates did that rites-of-passage thing and attended a performance at Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre, but that was not to be. Instead I watched the film on a loop.

rocky horror show review york grand opera house june 2019 cast

“Perfect scene-setter”

Being a bit self conscious about the fact I’m not 20 any more, when the twentysomething next to me gives me a look like, “What are you doing here?,” I realise I have every right. I was doing the Time Warp when she was a glimmer in her parents’ eyes. Obviously I don’t say it.

I spend the first 10 minutes adjusting between what the show is and what I think it should be. The opening, ‘Science Fiction Double Feature’ by usherette Laura Harrison, is a terrific rendition rather than that giant pair of movie lips singing against a black background as the opening credits roll. It’s a perfect scene-setter, and while I could have done with a little more awkward tension in Dammit Janet, like the movie, I start to relax as one of the greatest shows in theatre history unfolds.

Steve Punt does a superb job as narrator. His ad libs are especially good as slightly inebriated fans downstairs belt out the obligatory “additional dialogue” which has become the call and response bonus the show is known for. This is panto for grown ups, or make that ‘pant-oh!’ Emphasis on the pants. And yes, there are some “charming underclothes”.

Joanne Clifton does a terrific job as Janet (obviously she’s no 1975-era Susan Sarandon, but then again the real Ms Sarandon would have a job recreating her film role these days). James Darch is a great Brad, and all the more remarkable considering he stays in character while we, the audience, are having full-on banter with the narrator while Brad’s waiting to sing.

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“Loaded with great songs”

As the show continues, and we rush headlong towards Time Warp, I’ve stopped comparing stage show and film, and have really started to enjoy what turns out to be a phenomenal production. Kristin Lavercombe does an uncanny version of Riff Raff, and the rest of the regulars are great. Two standouts however are Stephen Webb’s Frank N Furter, who channels the spirit of Tim Curry’s “Sweet Transvestite”, and the remarkable Callum Evans as Rocky. He looks like an animated action figure with the sort of physique usually seen in Marvel movies. The acrobatics he performs are eye-popping, and he belts out a great tune too. The full package, as it were.

Some shows drag as they crawl toward the end of the first act. This flies by. Yes, time really is fleeting.

I’ve always had a bit of a problem with the final chunk of Rocky Horror. It’s not as bad as Wicked, which peaks just before half time, but TRHS is so front-loaded with great songs that by the finale, I’m a bit non-plussed.

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“Fun-packed”

Thankfully that’s not the case here. The cast turns everything up to 11 for a terrific ending. Little wonder they get a standing ovation, and there’s also little surprise we get to do the Time Warp. The twentysomething next to me even seems to have developed a modicum of respect for a fan who does know all the actions and the words to that song. She might even realise it’s not just for students but for every grown up, especially those that never got the chance to see Richard O’Brien’s masterful creation live.

It also contains one of those songs that has become an anthem for anyone trying to make ideas a reality. Don’t Dream It. Be It.

The fact I could happily see the whole thing again a day later is testament to how good this is. That fun-packed, risqué, interactive adult pantomime may have gone over the heads of some attendees on opening night, but for this die-hard fan was the perfect blues-buster for a rain-lashed Monday night.

My advice? Don’t dream it. See it.

images: David Freeman

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