The Rocky Horror Show
40th Anniversary Tour
Cliffs Pavilion, Southend
Wednesday 24th April 2013
It seems incredible that this unstoppable musical can be celebrating 40 years of rocking, with its subject matter still able to shock and amuse audiences and keep them coming back again and again. Tongues firmly in cheeks, the Rocky plot sends up old Sci-Fi B-movies with skill - recognisable even to those of us young enough not to know what a B-movie is...!
After the initial disappointment of missing this production's Frank N Furter, Oliver Thornton, due to illness, understudy Andrew Ahern did a worthy job of taking over the iconic role. With a big voice and skillful comic timing, he worked the audience well and after a slightly shaky opening relaxed into a fabulous performance, especially in Act 2's floor show. A daunting task to understudy a role where half the audience know all the lines better than you do! Phillip Franks played the straight faced Narrator with style. This midweek audience were unusually quiet so not enough opportunity was given for him to swerve from the script and further explore his comic responses, but he was well prepared for the few that were thrown his way and delivered them with aplomb. Sam Attwater brought his smooth vocal talent and fresh faced characterisation to Brad, played with a twinkle in his eye. His Janet was played by Roxanne Pallett with a surprisingly big singing voice and a graceful elegance. Her complete freedom in the role and relaxed confidence on stage led her to be the only actor to corpse all evening, following a well placed line from an audience member, but also to manage to give the performance of the night.
The set in this production was all a little too good to fit with the low-budget feel Rocky needs. Starting particularly tackily with the cutout car and Riff Raff's face in the moon, even the stand up bed worked well, but the hunting lodge feel to the interior of Frank's house was far more grand than it needed to be. That said, the lighting and sound effects helped tremendously to bring that B-Movie feel back to the show throughout, especially in Riff Raff and Magenta's final scene.
Richard O'Brien's cult masterpiece is a simple work of genius. Tunes that are catchy and memorable, an eminently quotable book, a host of larger-than-life characters, The Rocky Horror Show continues to attract new audiences every time it heads back out on tour - which is pretty much every five year anniversary. Another great production of this timeless show well worth catching while it continues around the country.