The Rocky Horror Show Review – Empire Theatre, Liverpool

The Rocky Horror Show
Image source: ATG Tickets

Show: The Rocky Horror Show
Venue: Empire Theatre, Liverpool
Date: 16th May 2022
Time: 20:00
Writer: Richard O’Brien
Director: Christopher Luscombe
Choreography: Nathan M Wright
Cast: Ore Oduba, Haley Flaherty, Stephen Webb, Joe Allen, Ben Westhead, Lauren Ingram, Kristian Lavercombe, Suzie McAdam, Reece Budin / Jordan Fox / Darcy Finden / Rachel Grundy, Danny Knott and Stephania Du Toit
Age Rating: 15+

Where to begin! Maybe three F words wouldn’t be out of place… Freaky, Filthy and Flamboyant. The Rocky Horror Show opened at Liverpool’s Empire Theatre last night and boy was it colourful!

The Rocky Horror Show Synopsis

Skip to the next section if you would rather not have the plot spoilt! The story begins with the usherette introducing the story (Science Fiction – Double Feature) and drawing the curtain open on two innocent-as-can-be sweethearts. Brad and Janet are on the road home from their friend’s wedding. Brad proposes to Janet and she accepts! A storm hits and flattens their tyre so they decide to walk two miles back in the direction of a castle they noticed. A freaky fellow appears at the door, Brad only asks to use the phone, but little did he know the moment the tip of their toes crossed that threshold they would enter a whole other sphere. Inside, Dr Frank-N-Furter has several servants. We meet Riff Raff, Columbia, Magenta and, briefly, Eddie! Time is Warped, things are fantastically freaky and Brad and Janet soon realise using the phone is out of the question.

“Sweet” transvestite scientist Frank-N-Furter demonstrates to a chilly Brad and Janet – now stripped down to their underwear – his latest creation – a muscular but blank-slate of a man he names Rocky. Janet thinks she doesn’t like a man with “too many muscles” …

Second Half

A song and dance or two later, Brad and Janet are seperately tricked into first-time sex with Frank-N-Furter, initially thinking they are with eachother. Upset but intrigued, they both give in. Janet then runs away to find Brad and ends up in the lab where Rocky is unsettled. She sees Brad in bed with Frank on the house monitor and is devastated. With her mind in a new and curious place, she seduces Rocky and is intimate for a second time that night. Frank-N-Furter finds out Rocky has left the lab so he and Brad rush there only for Brad to notice Janet with Rocky on the monitor!

Riff Raff alerts his cross-dressing master to an intruder who Brad identifies as his old science teacher Dr. Scott. He has come in search of his nephew Eddie. Frank is freaked by his presence and it is revealed that the household of strange characters are in fact aliens who abandoned their mission and followed Frank’s lead down to earth to capture earthlings and partake in freaky sexual behaviours. Magenta wishes to return home but her master has other plans: a floor show.

After the first matching lingerie performance by Brad, Janet, Columbia, Rocky and, of course, Frank, the group have lost all inhibition but the show is stopped by Riff Raff and Magenta who turn up in spacesuits with laser guns in hand. Riff Raff steps up to Frank and announces his leadership in taking them all back to their home planet. Frank pleads for understanding but Riff Raff shoots him anyway, along with his extra-lean creation Rocky and Columbia. Brad and Janet leave the castle with Dr. Scott before the aliens “do the Time Warpe again”.

Brad and Janet forgive eachothers’ uncharacteristic behaviours and the narrator sums up the wacky story followed by a second rendition of Science Fiction – Double Feature by the usherette. But of course, a musical medley follows!

The Rocky Horror Show Analysis

Colourful is a word with many different meanings and connotations and this show encapsulates all of them. The Rocky Horror Show is a fantastically strange, dirty, intriguing, excitable, disturbing production! The costumes are outrageous and the sets are over-the-top dramatic. It is a concoction of sex and science with a large spoonful of comedy gold. The audience play a huge part of that last ingredient. The Rocky Horror show is known for its audience participation; people attend in full costume, from lab coats and drag make-up to corsets with heels, as well as with a clear throat ready to shout whatever responses come to mind throughout the show!

Opening night started with a bang (I now can’t take a relatively clean word like “bang” seriously) with some hilarious cheeky comments – though some difficult to hear over the rest of the audience. One man behind me pretended to be Peter Andre (poor guy) and obviously Boris Johnson was the brunt on more than one ocassion. The music was great, completely Rock ‘n’ Roll, and every lyric was echoed through the stalls!

The cast showcased a brilliant array of talent from singing, dancing and comedic timing. Stephen Webb (Frank-N-Furter) was phenomenal- that voice blew the roof off, or more appropriately, the pants off! He had the biggest welcome from the audience by far from his first appearance and each one that followed, and he really was deserving. What a sensational performer. Phillip Franks played the narrator who was absolutely fantastic – it takes quick wit and something else to absorb the energy of the audience and bounce it right back! He is quite literally improvising half of his lines.

Simultaneously, Kristian Lavercombe (Riff Raff) had a pair of lungs and a half (which is quite possible in this show)! Oh he belted out ‘Time Warp’ with all the creepy crescendoing energy he could summon up. But who knew sports broadcasters could sing? We knew he could dance after he lifted the glitterball trophy back in 2016 but it seems Ore Oduba is a quadruple threat! Partnered with Haley Flaherty, the pair made the perfect Brad and Janet. They bounced off eachother beautifully and showed ‘oblivion’ to the audience reactions adding to the characters’ naivety.

The Rocky Horror Show Summary

In terms of how to approach the show as a Rocky Horror “virgin”, an open mind is necessary, limber up beforehand, and do come prepared to be shocked and slightly confused. I believe it is not supposed to make a whole lot of “sense” – it is not like any other regular musical and that is what makes The Rocky Horror Show what it is: A celebration of the off-beat, freakish, “unacceptable”, fictional and all things naughty! And I mean, naughty.

Notes:

Content: Partial nudity, language, sex references and sexual scenes
Target Audience: Fans and “virgins” who enjoy crude humour
Recommendation:
Depends on the person!

Overall Rating: 8/10