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40 Years of Absolute Pleasure

Opened QPAC Brisbane January 8th 2014

Production Details

Book, Music & Lyrics by Richard O'Brien
Original Music and Arrangements by Richard Hartley

Directed by  Christopher Luscombe
Production Design - Hugh Durrant
Costumes - Sue Blane
Lighting by - Nick Richings

Produced by
Ambassador Theatre Group and John Frost 
Principal Cast

Dr. Frank-N-Furter : Craig McLachlan

Janet : Christie Whelan Browne

Brad : Tim Maddren

Riff-Raff : Kristian Lavercombe

Usherette/Magenta : Erika Heynatz

Columbia : Ashlea Pyke

Eddie/Dr. Scott : Nicholas Christo

Rocky Horror : Brendan Irving

The Narrator : Tony Farrell

Phantoms : Vincent Hooper  Luigi Lucente Meghan O’shea Angela Scundi

James Maxfield - Dance Captain/Swing

 

 

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Some reviewers were impressed!

McLachlan makes Rocky Horror an absolute pleasure:

Reviewer rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Craig McLachlan may have hammed up a storm at the opening night of The Rocky Horror Show in Brisbane, but it was creator Richard O'Brien who stole the show.

Wearing golden leggings, a tiger print shirt and cowboy boots, the original Riff Raff took to the stage at the end of the Friday night show, remarking on the longevity of his crazy musical (forty years and counting), thanking the Brisbane audience for being “f---ing brilliant”, and then leading the cast in another rendition of Time Warp.

It was a special moment, and one that had the whole crowd singing and pelvic-thrusting along.

The approval though, had begun much earlier in the evening, with the overture and the Erika Heynatz's appearance as the blonde Usherette getting the dressed-up fans in the front rows excited.

Christie Whelan Browne and Tim Maddren as the newly engaged Brad and Janet delivered a charming rendition of Damn it, Janet, before a flat tyre sees them search out help at a nearby castle (a stirring Over at the Frankestein House).

It's the appearance of castle caretakers Riff Raff (Kristian Lavercombe) and Magenta (Heynatz again, this time in a wild red wig) that ramped up the action, with Time Warp getting the crowd really buzzing.

Lavercombe's voice is extraordinary, but there was something about his higher-pitched Riff Raff that takes away something of the character's menace – his Riff Raff is more hysterical than maniacal. Heynatz is solid as Magenta, but apart from a great onanistic moment when everyone but her stops singing, she isn't given enough opportunities to be dirty.

Everything falls into place however when Craig “Dr Blake” McLachlan appears as Dr Frank N. Furter, the pansexual experimental scientist who's all red lipstick and swagger, and has a habit of conning local oddjobs such as Columbia (Ashley Pyke) and Eddie (Nicholas Christo) into serving him.

The audience absolutely lost it when he appeared, and that was before he dropped the cape to reveal his corset, fishnets and, ahem, well-rounded character. Sweet Transvestite is a goldmine of a tune, and McLachlan purrs and grunts his way through, showing off his vocal - as well as bicep - muscles.

Frank's appearance took the audience participation, which had begun when narrator Tony Farrell first opened the narrative, to another level, and McLachlan embraced it beautifully. He encouraged the interplay and hushed it when necessary. McLachlan first played the role of Frank in his mid-20s; now in his mid-40s, he suits it better. Frank should be an older man, comfortable in his skin, and McLachlan reflects that with gusto.

Brendan Irving is a suitably innocent Rocky, and if you looked up the definition of “definition” in the dictionary, you'd see a picture of Irving's abs. Quite remarkable, even from the balconies.

The sex scenes were well staged with the use of a vertical bed, allowing characters to sneak in and out where required (oo-er). The Rocky Horror Show's genius lies in its ability to make the naughty and even morally questionable seem palatable and safe, with McLachlan absolutely owning the risqué content.

The first song of Act II, Touch-A Touch-A Touch Me, cemented Christie Whelan Browne as having the best technical voice in the show – every line is clear and concise. Sadly the same couldn't be said for Frank's Floor Show (Rose Tint My World) which had fabulous outfits and dance moves, but was more of a brash display of legs than a cohesive argument for carnal satisfaction.

Having said that, the entire second half of the show makes little sense anyway; Frank, Riff Raff and Magenta turn out to be aliens, there's a power struggle and a tragedy, and then Brad and Janet are left to contemplate their strange night of sexual discovery. Then it was back to the Time Warp and Sweet Transvestite for the curtain call, allowing everyone to jump out of their seats and sing along.

The low-key aesthetic of the production worked well, turning Brisbane's Lyric Theatre into a suitably seedy and intimate drawing room. Scenery was purposefully dodgy, and Frank's lab was appropriately B-movie neon kitsch.

Overall it's a solid production that's ultimately held together by McLachlan's shamelessness. Give yourself over to absolute pleasure.


Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/mclachlan-makes-rocky-horror-an-absolute-pleasure-20140113-30qbr.html#ixzz2sPe9MOjURocky Horror Picture Show is more pleasure than pain.

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For the 40th Anniversary since the show opened in Sydney in 1974, it would have been fitting to reproduce the original show, using the designs by Australian Brian Thomson, and direction, at least based on, Jim Sharman's ground-breaking original. This was not the case!

Australia was treated to an imported production from London, including set, direction and the British cast member who'd played Riff Raff in the UK tour.

The role of Frank was given to the middle-aged, ex-soap star, Craig McLachlan.  A muscle bound straight man who played it for laughs.

As one fans writes:

Rocky Horror Final 2015 Show!
I really hope we never have to hear about this again after today's finale. It's all like some terrible dream...
The only good thing to come from this vile atrocity is the fact that it gave me the opportunity to meet Richard 3 more times.
The singalong "Don't Dream it", I feel, ruins what was a truly pivotal moment, but then, I suppose it makes no real difference because there's basically no character development whatsoever in this show. The entire thing is a mockery, after Sweet T, it just feels like an incredibly dated, and unfunny one-man stand up comedy routine. I admit that it does improve slightly with the start of the Floorshow, but that probably has a lot to do with the fact there is very little dialogue, so Craig can't embellish and drop out of character to engage with the audience like he does for most of the show.
In the performance I saw, Craig brought a 10 yo kid up on stage and gave him a hug in case the show was confusing or "too dirty" for him to witness. It was like English panto. I later discovered that he has done this several times (looks for a kid in the first few rows of the stalls to rehash the same joke).
Without question, the worst thing I have ever experienced in 30 years of seeing this show!

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THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW REVIEW (LYRIC THEATRE, SYDNEY)

Oh, Rocky! What have they done to you, you magnificent, sexy beast? When did you become so polite? So light? So completely inconsequential? When did you embrace the “party musical” label with such force that you almost completely abandoned your roots as, you know, a piece of theatre? When did one of the most influential, subversive and shocking pieces of queer culture become nothing more than another crowd-pleasing, mainstream musical blockbuster, and end up feeling like Mamma Mia?

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This new 40th anniversary production of Richard O’Brien’s seminal cult rock’n'roll musical is basically the cartoon version of the iconic 1975 Tim Curry-led film. There are costumes by Sue Blane which turn the volume up on the film designs — for example, Janet’s pink dress is now a far brighter pink, and she has Carol Brady hair — and a small, versatile set by Hugh Durrant, framed by giant rolls of old film. (The set, which comes from a UK touring production, is far too small for the 2000-seat Lyric Theatre). Visually, at least, it’s all rather sanitised. Where’s the scrappiness? There’s a carefully torn show curtain, but not a ripped fishnet in sight.

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The audience absolutely laps up Craig McLachlan as Dr Frank N Furter, and it’s a generous performance in that he gives the majority of folks exactly what they want. But, to my mind, it’s shallow, hammy and entirely lacking in any danger or intrigue. Frank should invite an audience to lean in and occasionally recoil, rather than reaching out to them in every scene. It’s also great to go off-script and respond to the rabble, but it shouldn’t go so far that it destroys your character’s dramatic arc. Frank should have motivations beyond trying to drag a laugh out of the audience with erection jokes. Frank is cheap and nasty, but there’s more lurking under the surface.

To McLachlan’s credit, by the time he reaches the Floor Show, he brings some integrity to his performance and doesn’t try to pull a joke out of “Whatever happened to Fay Wray? That delicate, satin-draped frame. As it clung to her thigh, how I started to cry, ’cause I wanted to be dressed just the same.” But by then, McLachlan has played all of Frank’s sexual exploits and experiments with gender purely for laughs, so it’s impossible to really care. His approach to gender and sexuality is playful, but it shouldn’t be the joke it has become here.

There are some very strong supporting performances, which build up a slightly more interesting world around McLachlan’s Frank. Amy Lehpamer has traced the journey of Janet from innocent virgin to liberated sex kitten with surprising dexterity and versatile, powerful vocals. Her Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me is one of few thrilling moments. Angelique Cassimatis and Jayde Westaby are both fireballs as Columbia and Magenta, respectively.

Kristian Lavercombe’s Riff Raff follows the template set by O’Brien a little too closely, but he belts the bejesus out of the score, while Stephen Mahy’s Brad is fine as the all-American jock, but could do with a little more grunt in some moments.

And if producer John Frost must continue to shoehorn Bert Newton into musicals, his role as narrator is a perfect fit. Newton also had the best comeback on opening night to a heckler who suggested his career was over. Hats off, Bert.

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Australia has a strong history with Rocky Horror. The original 1973 London production (in the 63-seat upstairs space at the Royal Court Theatre) was directed and designed by Australians Jim Sharman and Brian Thomson. The Australian production, which opened less than a year later, became legendary. It’s one of the defining moments of Reg Livermore’s career, and people still talk about his Frank. I can’t vouch for his performance in the role, as I wasn’t even alive back then, but the original Australian cast recording is absolute dynamite — raw, rocking and irresistible (seriously, find it on iTunes or Spotify and have a listen).

It’s a shame that the most recent Rocky down under – Gale Edwards’ genuinely fresh take on the show in 2008 — has been followed up with something quite so stale. Edwards’ production was intellectually rigorous, sexy, and yet still managed to give the audience what they wanted as a “party musical”. And it had iOta as a Frank who, while borrowing heavily from Tim Curry, had charisma, power and a respect for the source material.

And that’s what seems so curiously lacking from this production which goes to every effort to reproduce the look and sound (although the sound design is rather tinny) of the film multitudes of fans have come to know and love. Director Christopher Luscombe has fundamentally mishandled the book so that it meanders from cheap gag to cheap gag and song to song.

Despite what your strongest memories of Rocky are, it works because it has an excellent, subversive and witty book about sexual liberation and coming of age. But you wouldn’t necessarily realise that from this production, in which dramatic beats are constantly missed. There’s a brilliantly dangerous moment when Frank hands Brad and Janet two white lab coats after they’ve just been stripped down to their underwear. He says: “Put these on. They’ll make you feel less … vulnerable.” Frank carefully chooses his final word to gently manipulate Brad and Janet. In this production, it’s simply: “Put these on. They’ll make you feel less vulnerable.”

Rocky Horror desperately needs a director who will go back to the words on the page, unpack exactly what they mean — and what they mean today – and take their time considering how they want to tell that story. I believe Rocky Horror is one of the legitimately great musicals of the latter half of the 20th century. It should be a hell of a lot of fun, but it has to be something more. It’s not a shallow piece of fluff, and if your audience leaves with no higher praise than “that was a fun night out”, you’re not doing it right.

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©2017 Mark Jabara Ellison Productions