Rocky Horror Show

The-Rocky-Horror-Show-photo-by-Daniel-BoudDriving to the theatre, my teenage daughter asked:

Child:   “So…What is Rocky Horror about?”

Me:       “Well, um, it’s kinda, um, here let me put the soundtrack on.” 

Ten songs later.

Child:   “So it’s not about boxing?”

Me:       (silence with a splash of side eye).

The Rocky Horror Show is a cult classic musical comedy written by Richard O’Brien, first released on stage in 1973. The stage show was followed by the film version in 1975, featuring the original stage cast with the franchise subsequently earning cult status which boasts an extremely loyal and fanatic troupe of followers.

Known for its unique blend of science fiction, horror, and rock music, the film is never far from a cinema near you and is rolled out frequently on stage as an easy ticket seller. This occasion celebrates the 50th anniversary of the show and does so with the classic spectacle the fans expect.

The story follows newly engaged couple, Brad and Janet, who stumble upon the castle of Dr. Frank N. Furter, a mad scientist from the planet Transsexual, Transylvania after an unfortunate “accident”. Frank N. Furter, obsessed with creating the perfect man, brings to life “Rocky”, his ultimate creation. From this point, the plot becomes, well, complicated.

In this anniversary outing, fans will not be disappointed as they wait with anticipation for their favourite lines or opportunity to do the Time Warp, again.  This production is bright, loud and full of fun, but not perfection.

As the freakish front runner, import, David Bedella dons the quintessential lingerie and does his best to fill the enormous heels of Tim Curry (The original Frankie). While looking every bit the part and with capable vocals, Bedella came across a little like he was simply ticking boxes. His crowd interaction was that of a seasoned pro, but the complete package was a jump to the left shy of a winning performance.

The narrator of Rocky Horror is typically played by a “ring in” celebrity who brings their own brand of humour and wit to the role. For opening night, the producers chose Myf Warhurst to keep the story moving.

Warhust’s read was that of a PA announcement in a supermarket. Clearly riding on her “qualifications” and specific Aussie TV comedic fame, Warhurst was nasally, monotoned and had the comic timing of a dollar store watch; a TV host an actor does not always make.

Producers need to carefully choose this prominent drawcard, and not merely cast on a perceived popularity scale. Of Note, O’Brien was present on opening night, top and tailing the show as narrator. Such a shame this wasn’t the case for the full production.

As Janet, Dierdre Khoo had strong and sweet vocals, but did not deliver the required contrast between innocent cuteness and confident lustiness, losing the impact of this evolution. Ethan Jones as Brad did hit these key points and combined with his first-class vocals, made for one of the production’s highlights.  His risqué bedroom scene was hilarious and a direct testament to his skill as a performer.

Singing show frequenter Stellar Perry stepped into the dual roles of Magenta and the Usherette. While good, Perry appeared to ride on attitude and confidence over talent. As Columbia, Darcey Eagle was a ball of energy, constantly on like a Duracell Bunny.  This exuberance and her whiny tone wore thin as the show progressed.

Muscle bound Rocky, Loredo Malcolm, was fit, fiery, funny and fabulous. This role can often be rather vanilla, but Malcolm had the perfect amount of spice to appeal to all palates.

Ellis Dolan doubled up as the related Eddie and Dr Scott. Easily the weakest link in this production, despite his NIDA diploma, Dolan’s performance was not of professional standard and other than looking the part was miscast. His vocals were adequate, but his frequent looking down made it appear like he was about to fall off the edge of the planet, constantly ripping him from his characters.

Henry Rollo is Riff Raff, Frankie’s right-hand man.  From the second Rollo appears atop of the Frankenstein Place, you know that he will be a high point of the evening. His voice is outstanding and character work never lets up. If you spend your time watching Rollo, you will be rewarded with a display of talent of the calibre of O’Brien’s original take on the role.

In the 70’s, 80’s and even the 90’s, Rocky Horror delivered a high level of shock with its sexual themes and gender bending imagery. In 2023, and what seems to be the year of transgenderism, transvestites and men dressed in frilly underwear is as prominent on social media as the ads your Google algorithm rams down your feed. The loss of the shock value robs the show of some of its naughtiness and I wonder how long the dust can be blown off this classic romp.

The band are on their A game and rock the classic score with the precision of the original vinyl.

The set showed promise, but never really unfolded, looking squished to the front of the stage like it was destined for a smaller boutique venue and not the vast Festival Centre stage. Lighting by Nick Richings is spot on creating a clinical and eerie vibe.

You will be entertained, regardless of this 50th anniversary’s flaws, but if Rocky Horror is to keep an audience well into the future, it needs to be at the top of its game and fresh as Betty Monroe’s bouquet.

So, come up to the lab and see what’s on the slab.

The Rocky Horror Show
Festival Theatre – Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Performance: Wednesday 19 April 2023
Season continues to 13 May 2023

Following the Adelaide season, the Rocky Horror Show will play the Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne, from 18 May; the Crown Theatre Perth from 6 August, and the Canberra Theatre Centre from 29 September 2023. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: The Rocky Horror Show (50th Anniversary Australian Cast) – photo by Daniel Boud

Review: Jeff Lang