I would like . . . if I may, to introduce you to all aspects of Rocky Horror from an Australian perspective!
As many of the original participants in the birth of Rocky are Australians, and Australian's affection for the show and film have been so intense for so long, I thought Australia needed a document of the phenomenon.
This is a fan site and has no connection with Richard O'Brien or any cast members. My aim is to provide information and pictures from the various incarnations in Australia, as there was almost no information available online on this subject. Information about full scale productions, only, will be added, not "shadow casts" or "Corporate theme shows". If anyone has anything they would like to contribute, please contact me. Any information anyone has, from programs or experience, will be credited and much appreciated. This is a non-profit site!
The Rocky Horror Show was conceived by Richard O'Brien, who wrote the music and lyrics and then created in a workshop environment. Born Richard Timothy Smith on March 25, 1942 in Cheltenham, England, at ten (due to Richard ’s poor childhood health) his family moved to a farm in Taraunga New Zealand, with Richard staying till he was 22, before moving back to England. During those formative years in New Zealand, Richard escaped the boredom of farm life by horse riding and regular visits to the local movie house, where he saw the many B-grade sci-fi and horror films on offer to a rural community theatre. The New Zealand radio played their very own “greasy” Johnny Devlin, inspiring Richard to yearn for theatricality with rock and roll.
Once back in England, Richard moved from job to job, trying everything from truck driving to hairdressing, without finding his calling. His horse riding abilities led to stunt work in a few British films, but lack of certification moved him on again, this time into acting classes, a change of name (O’Brien after his Grandfather) and eventually the 1969 touring cast of Hair, where Richard met Tim Curry. After Hair, Richard landed the, Herod (Paul Jabara) understudy, role in the original London production of Jesus Christ Superstar, which was being directed by Australian Jim Sharman. Meeting Sharman gave O’Brien the opportunity to act in Sam Sheppard's sci-fi squeal The Unseen Hand, and also the opportunity to present him with an idea he was having for a musical.
O’Brien’s abiding passion was song writing, particularly Fifties rock'n'roll and soul music, in the style of his idols, Buddy Holly and Otis Redding. His first major work was the musical Thunderock, written during his teens; throughout the 60s he had co-written material with Liverpudlian Arthur Kelly (a bass-playing associate of George Harrison). O'Brien has admitted that Rocky was partly "an excuse to use up some of the songs I'd written already which had never been performed."
"They Came From Denton High" was the original title with O’Brien singing some of the songs for Sharman, who was suitably impressed and sent a solo acoustic demo tape of O'Brien singing "Science Fiction, Double Feature" to independent theatre producer Michael White, one of London's most successful and experienced theatrical producers. He became fascinated with the tape and story concept and agreed to sponsor the production.
Richard O’Brien, Jim Sharman, Brian Thomson and friends began workshopping the now dubbed “Rocky Horror Show” intensely. Jim Sharman’s contributions are often underplayed, but were a major part of the show’s eventual storyline and success, bringing with him his own 50's sci-fi rock experiences via his Australian film SHIRLEY THOMPSON VERSUS THE ALIENS (also designed by Brian Thomson). The show abounded with Australian sensibilities and input, particularly our love of the bizarre, grotesque and sexual. Hammer Studios (who's films had been a mainstay of both country's "double features" for over a decade) with their overtly colourful and sexy remakes of the American horror classics, were the biggest influence, as they symbolised the loss of innocence and difference between the USA and Britain/Australia. The original programme for the show gives a special mention "To Hammer,without whom..."
The original London production premiered on Tuesday 19 June 1973, at the Royal Court's 60-seat experimental Theatre Upstairs as a six-week workshop project. The original cast included Tim Curry as Frank’N’Furter, and Australian singer-actress Little Nell as Columbia. Rocky proved such a success that it was quickly moved to larger quarters in a converted 500 seat cinema in Chelsea, where Australian Brian Thomson created the definitive look of the show.
The original Australian production of Rocky premiered in Sydney at midnight 19th April 1974 (first preview had been earlier that evening) at the New Arts Cinema, Glebe (now apartments). It was the third major stage show produced by entrepeneur Harry M. Miller, and like its two predecessors, Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar, it was a resounding success. It ran for 18 months (before transferring to Melbourne for another 18 months), with the production and cast inclusive of several key personnel who had worked on both previous hits, including Reg Livermore, Jim Sharman, Brian Thomson and Harry M. Miller. Jim Sharman has said that it was his favourite production of the show, as it was on home turf and knowing the sensibilities of the audience he and Brian could push the boundaries without hestitation. Brian Thomson coverd the inside of the theatre, which was literally falling down, in dark blue canvas with ACME Demolition signs stencilled over it, scaffolding that ran along the theatre walls and on to the stage completed the "THEATRE UNDER DEMOLITION" look of the show, and allowed the characters to climb. A catwalk running from one of the back stall doors onto the stage gave Reg's Frank an incredible an unexpected entrance.
The production was a sensation and although many incarnations have followed including the film, anyone who had anything to do with the Original Australian Production, will tell you, they pale next to this monstrous piece of entertainment.