It’s a strange journey: From the debut of The Rocky Horror Show in 1973, in a small upstairs theatre in Chelsea, London, to Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show in 2018, in the much larger Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne. Despite the technical proficiency, stunning effects and wonderful, frenetic staging of tonight’s version, there’s a sense of some of the risk-taking and quality of fun of that original work that persists here.
This current iteration has also had to contend with the accusations surrounding Craig McLachlan and what was at the time a much-lauded performance. Indeed, the role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter is a tough one to step into at the best of times, let alone under these circumstances. Yet, Todd McKenney succeeds absolutely in making the character his own and leading what is a spectacular rendition of this classic musical.
After the show, as the audience began to spread themselves around late-night Melbourne, I had a few people spot the programme in my hand and comment on what they thought was a “toned down” performance by Todd – assuming in the wake of the recent scandal that this was a deliberate choice by cast and crew in order to best distance themselves from the past.
I disagreed, however, in that Todd’s performance didn’t appear toned down, as much as it was focussed. Instead of indulgence, the audience were treated to a masterclass in discipline and stagecraft. One of the modern risks with the show is its “off the shelf” feel, but tonight’s show felt fresh and was thrilling and electric from prelude to reprise.
Shane Jacobson didn’t let a moon boot get in any obvious way of his duties as the Narrator, but his half-apathetic/half-mocking during Time Warp wasn’t a good choice, tonally. Michelle Smitheram was a delightful and funny Janet, while Rob Mallett was terrific in the role as Brad.
Michelle and Rob had great chemistry, particularly in the early numbers before falling into Frank-N-Furter’s clutches. Kristian Lavercombe gave a remarkable performance as Riff Raff. Sharp, funny, unsettling, Kristian had great control and presence throughout, as did all of the cast. Everyone on stage did tremendous work.
I’ve rarely heard the cheer during a curtain call threaten to take the roof off a theatre as I did on this night. A strange journey, sure, but also a sensational one.
The Rocky Horror Show
Her Majesty’s Theatre, 219 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
Performance: Wednesday 18 July 2018 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 26 August 2018
Information and Bookings: www.rockyhorror.com.au
Image: Todd McKenney stars in The Rocky Horror Show – photo Jeff Busby
Review: David Collins