The Rocky Horror Show – 50th Anniversary Production

Is it really 50 years since Reg Livermore scandalised and delighted Sydney with his joyously outrageous cavorting as Frank N Furter in Harry M. Miller’s production of The Rocky Horror Show in the less-than-salubrious New Arts Theatre in Glebe?

Well a lot has happened in that 50 years and what was then subversive and shocking when we first met Frank N Furter is now mainstream.

The show is much prettier than it was in the days of the New Arts Theatre, and Rocky is no longer the artificially made, fully grown, physically perfect muscle man complete with blonde hair and a tan that Frank N Furter originally created for his own pleasure.

In this production he’s an artificially made, fully grown, physically perfect, black muscle man with black hair and indeterminate sun tan, charmingly and exuberantly performed by Loredo Malcolm.

Australia’s favourite boy-next-door, Jason Donovan, now a little less boyish, but a West End veteran who played Frank N Furter in the 25th Anniversary production of The Rocky Horror Show still brings a shapely pair of legs, a fine singing voice and a knowing louche charm to his interpretation of the iconic role.

His domain has been given a spruce-up with a fresh new setting by Hugh Durrant, colourful costumes by Sue Blane and state-of-the-art lighting design by Nick Richings replacing the beguiling tackiness of the original production.

The talented cast includes Ethan Jones and Deirdre Khoo as the previously wholesome and naïve Brad and Janet. Henry Rollo (Riff Raff), Stellar Perry (Magenta) and Darcey Eagle (Columbia) portray Frank N Furter’s associates, with Ellis Dolan in the dual roles of Eddie/ Dr Scott.

All perform their roles with energy and commitment supported by four hard-working dancers, Josh Gates, Catty Hamilton, Jackson Reedman and Erica Wild who stylishly execute Nathan Wright’s natty choreography.

As the narrator, Myf Warhurst, of Spicks and Specks fame, read her script efficiently but looked uncomfortable, substituting an engaging smile and a “what-am-I-doing here” attitude for any perceivable hint of stagecraft.

All the favourite Rocky Horror songs are included; The Time Warp, Sweet Transvestite, I can Make You a Man, Touch-a-Touch-a-Touch Me – all performed with gusto by the talented cast and Jack Earle’s tight quintet. .

However, despite the enthusiastic attempts of the ‘influencers’ noisily demonstrating how much they were enjoying the show, the response by most of the first-night audience, perhaps a generation or two older than the target audience, was surprisingly subdued.

So much so that it was hard to escape the impression that given how much attitudes have changed over the last 50 years, many in the audience were finding much of the on-stage sexual horse-play more worrying than entertaining; therefore raising the question that, at 50, has the once-subversive Rocky Horror Show lost its relevance?

The Rocky Horror Show
Theatre Royal, 108 King Street, Sydney
Performance: Saturday 18 February 2023
Season continues to 2 April 2023

Following the Sydney season, The Rocky Horror Show will be presented at the Adelaide Festival Centre from 13 April, and the Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne, from 18 May 2023.  For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Jason Donovan as Frank N Furter – photo by Daniel Boud

Review: Bill Stephens OAM