The Rocky Horror Show

Jason-Donovan-in-The-Rocky-Horror-Show-photo-by-Daniel-BoudIt is hard to believe The Rocky Horror Show has been gracing stages across the world for 50 years. A modern classic, the musical pays tribute to the horror and science fiction movies of the 1940 – 70s. Following seasons in Sydney and Adelaide, Rocky Horror returns to Melbourne, this time at the Athenaeum Theatre for a limited run.

With music, lyrics and a book by Richard O’Brien, the original London production, produced and directed by Jim Sharman, premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in June 1973. The original Australian stage production opened in Sydney in April 1974, running for almost two years and featuring Reg Livermore as Frank’n’Furter.

A subsequent Melbourne production in late 1975 featured Max Phipps as Frank’n’Furter and Joan Brockenshire as Magenta. And who could forget the classic cult film, released in 1975, starring Tim Curry as Frank’n’Furter and its author, Richard O’Brien as Riff Raff.

Christopher Luscombe’s direction is a wild and an untamed thing. While it may lack the subversive edge of its predecessors, it’s certainly a fun night out, watching this tightly honed cast relish in the material that features many timeless classics, Sweet Transvestite, Damn it Janet, and of course, the Time Warp.

The-Rocky-Horror-Show-photo-by-Daniel-BoudHugh Durrant’s design pays homage to both the English pantomime and the shows film heritage, complimented by Nick Richings’ lighting, to create a rock n roll feel. Sue Blane’s costumes have a wonderfully humourous gothic feel, while Nathan M. Wright’s choreography is splendid fun.

Stellar Perry, first seen as an archetypical 1950s usherette, later materialises as the hot and feisty Magenta, Henry Rollo, ups the ante and is suitably impressive as Franks’ loyal henchman, Riff Raff, while Darcey Eagle is a bright and bubbly as Frank’s groupie, Columbia.

Ethan Jones and Deirdre Khoo are lovably sweet as the hapless young innocents Brad and Janet, Ellis Dolan brings a classic rock edge as Eddie, only to return later as the wheelchair bound Dr Scott, while Loredo Malcolm brings a new dimension Frank’s new plaything, Rocky. Josh Gates, Catty Hamilton, Jackson Reedman and Erica Wild round out the cast as the highly energetic Phantoms.

However, the night belongs to Jason Donovan as the show stopping transvestite, Frank’n’Furter, who turns a treat with the audience lapping up his every word and move. Donovan makes the role his own, rendering a more cheeky and deliciously ribald ‘Frank’ in Act One, delivery just enough menace combined with pathos in Act Two, when the cards turn and things don’t go his way.

Rocky Horror needs to be loud and the band under Jack Earle certainly delivers with a terrific bold  sound. This tight outfit never misses a beat, keeping the pace rollicking on, while respecting the more quieter moments such as Frank’s swansong Going Home and Brad’s reflective Once in Awhile (a song that never made it into the movie).

For many, the Rocky Horror Show will be a trip down memory lane – so have a few drinks, enjoy the party, and give yourself over to absolute pleasure with Frank and his kooky cast of characters – you won’t be disappointed!

The Rocky Horror Show
Athenaeum Theatre, 188 Collins Street, Melbourne
Performance: Wednesday 24 May 2023 – 7.30pm
Season continues to 30 July  2023

Following the Melbourne season, The Rocky Horror Show heads to the Crown Theatre Perth from 6 August, The Star Gold Coast from 3 September, and the Canberra Theatre Centre from 29 September 2023. For more information, visit: for details.

Images:  Jason Donovan in The Rocky Horror Show – photo by Daniel Boud | The Cast of The Rocky Horror Show – photo by Daniel Boud

Review: Rohan Shearn