The Rocky Horror Show, Playhouse Theatre, London
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The 1973 original production of The Rocky Horror Show opened about a month before my 18th birthday. Throughout my time at university, friends played the LP and quoted the lines. On my first visit to New York I saw the movie in the cinema, where it was already (in 1979) a cult classic, playing to people wearing the costumes of its more outrageous characters, and where I felt I was the only person seeing it for the first time. (Special awards were given to regulars clocking up their 50th, 100th and even 250th times.) The stage show was revived several times during the 1990s, once with a friend of mine in one of its roles. So it seems improbable even to me that the new production of The Rocky Horror Show is the first I’ve seen on stage, aged 50. But I had an entirely good time.
Is there anybody left alive who might find shock value in the transsexual, bisexual, post-Dracula, post- Frankenstein and post-Sade deflowerings of this show? For all its naughtiness, it was always thoroughly retro: it returned to a kind of Gothic story that had long acquired a late-Friday- night-TV familiarity, and to a kind of rock music that by the 1970s seemed positively innocent. It’s still a cult show for young or youngish people. On the non-press night I attended, there were rows of people wearing Frank N. Furter and Magenta costumes, most of whom were surely born after the original production opened.
Frank N. Furter here is David Bedella, already famous to many as Satan and the Warm-Up Man in the original Jerry Springer: The Opera production. Singing it with raunchy power in a dark, driving bass-baritone, he looks, with his big grin and spiky coiffure, like Tina Turner at her most iconic – which turns out to be perfect. Steve League of Gentlemen Pemberton is the narrator (he will be succeeded by Nigel Planer or Roger Lloyd Pack). As directed by Christopher Luscombe, both play every nuance to the cheerful hilt, and the whole company puts the songs across with relish. Maybe in the finale Matthew Cole turns Brad into something more gleefully camp than is needed, but you hardly notice. ★★★☆☆
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