The Rocky Horror Show: Liverpool Empire Theatre Review

29790_fullHot on the heels off its short run at the Playhouse Theatre in London and Live broadcast, the West End’s sauciest show is back on tour circulating venues across the UK right up until September 2016.

The Rocky Horror Show has grown in popularity since its conception in 1973 which first saw the legendary Tim Curry play the now iconic role of Sweet Transvestite Frank-N-Furter. The show’s success further rocketed following the release of the 1975 film version featuring a screenplay by creator Richard O’Brien. Its a diverse, cult musical with a strong message at its core to embrace one’s own individuality. You can read more about that here in my review of the 40th anniversary blu-ray. http://lovehorror.co.uk/comedy-horror/the-rocky-horror-picture-show-1975-40th-anniversary-blu-ray-review/

Ahead of its time, The Rocky Horror Show fits in beautifully in 21st Century society, while it was certainly daring and risqué back in the 1970’s it really cements the notion of acceptance within our culture. Anyone and everyone is welcome at Rocky Horror regardless of age, gender, sexuality or race. It’s something that is accessible to people who aren’t necessarily regular theatre-goers too. Total strangers band together in celebration of this weird and wonderful musical phenomenon and the feel good factor of experiencing the stage show is that fun is 100% guaranteed.

The re-packaged, all star cast 2016 tour is a must-see for life-long fans as its a production of a high quality and high standard. I caught a performance at the Liverpool Empire Theatre on February 5th. It was the 5:30pmmatinee performance and that certainly didn’t restrict the audience from getting into the spirit of the show. Dressing up is one of the major traditions of attending The Rocky Horror and the Empire Theatre’s auditorium was a sea of Frank’s, Columbia, Magenta’s, Riff Raff’s and Phantoms however its also not mandatory to dress up either, echoing the message of Rocky Horror of being whoever you want to be.

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The Empire Theatre is one of the most stunning, luxurious theatres I’ve ever been in. It consists of a large auditorium with raised seating as well as a balcony area. The venue was sold out which meant there was certainly going to be a lively atmosphere. The show began with Roxy, an usherette (played by Kay Murphy who also plays Magenta.). She appears from behind the satin curtain to sing the show’s opening number “Science Fiction/Double Feature” while moving the curtain along to reveal the stage and set. For those who are familiar with the film version, Roxy is replaced by the lips of Magenta actress Patricia Quinn with the vocals of Richard O’Brien. In the stage version the number is performed more upbeat, setting the mood for the fun and fetishes that lie ahead.show-rocky

The story is then set, we meet “wholesome” couple Brad Majors (“Asshole”) and his fiancee Janet Weiss (“Slut”). The couple inevitably run into car trouble and stumble on the mysterious Frankenstein castle and well… experience a night that they will never forget, you know the rest! Brad was played by former Emmerdale actor and musical theatre star Ben Freeman and Janet was played by former X Factor contestant and west end actress Diana Vickers. They played their roles brilliantly, capturing the essence of the characters we’re familiar with from the film with awkwardness and inexperience until they taste that “forbidden fruit” later on. Freeman and Vickers display powerful vocals proving to be two of the most talented performers in musical theatre today despite being well known for their TV backgrounds.

Following on from the Playhouse run, Kristian Lavercombe reprises his role as creepy caretaker Riff Raff, who isn’t to be underestimated! Lavercombe has vocals matching that of Richard O’Brien’s, giving one of the show’s most essential performances. Dynamic and mesmerizing, his verse in “Over at the Frankenstien Place” has a spooky, otherworldly feel to it. Also returning from the Playhouse shows is Sophie Linder-Lee playing Columbia. Dressed all sparkly with her signature top hat and tap shoes, Linder-Lee affectionately plays Columbia as hyperactive and with humour. Her shining moment comes during the second half when Frank has gassed his guests ready for the floor show, Linder-Lee has her chance to perform some wacky comedy that got the audience howling with laughter.

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Steve Punt (half of Punt and Dennis) is the narrator and has the most interaction with the audience throughout the show which allows for plenty of improvisation. Referring to us being the 5:30pm audience he joked “I thought you were meant to be the sober lot!”. Punt is one of the best performers I’ve seen in the role, with plenty of witty comebacks ready for the audience’s heckling that borders on pantomime.

The Rocky Horror Show’s main attraction is of course the entrance of Frank N Furter in that elevator. Brand new to the cast is Liam Tamne, who has previously appeared in productions of Phantom of the Opera and Hairspray. He is however most well known for appearing on BBC’s talent show, The Voice. Tamne is a different kind of Frank, bringing his own dimension to the role. He gives a more playful performance that differs from Tim Curry and David Bedella’s incarnations. Tamne’s strongest feature is his vocals particularly during the heart-rending moment where Frank fantasizes about returning to his own planet “I’m Going Home”. The seduction scene of Brad and Janet during the beginning of the second half allows Tamne, Vickers and Freeman to have fun with the sexual riskiness of the scene, which has always been much more effective on stage than on screen with innuendos busting at the seams!

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The title character Rocky Horror is played by Dominic Andersen who as well as Lavercombe and Linder-Lee portrayed the role at the Playhouse Theatre. In “I can make you a man”, Andersen performs a spectacle, showing his acrobatic skills and flexibility that had the audience cheering in amazement. The role of Eddie/Doctor Scott was meant to be played by S Club 7 member Paul Cattermole however when the character appeared ready to perform the rock n roll, 50s infused “Hot Patootie” it was one of the understudies. Unfortunately the programme did not specify a change in cast, therefore Eddie/Doctor Scott was either played by Ben Kerr or Zachary Morris during this performance. Nevertheless, the understudy did a brilliant job as Doctor Scott’s appearance in the musical is a highlight bringing suspicion and amusement to the situation at Frank’s castle.

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There’s no musical on earth like Rocky Horror where the audience is just as much a part of the show as the actors. I can’t name another musical where by the fourth number in the show the audience are on their feet dancing along, which is of course to the iconic “Time Warp”. The spectacular finale allowed the audience to enjoy the song one last time as well as experience Tamne perform the signature number “Sweet Transvestite” once again. The Rocky Horror Show is such a timeless, cult phenomenon with rife audience participation that annoyingly at times did overpower the actors performances. Despite the odd detraction the show featured top class performances, vibrant sets, costumes that mirrored the film and a sensational live band that were placed above the main scenery. Its a show with an incredible legacy that Richard O’Brien should be proud of.

Check out The Rocky Horror Show at a local venue near you! Don’t Dream it, Be it! http://rockyhorror.co.uk/tour

Movie Rating: ★★★★★ 

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About Welsh Demoness

Welsh Demoness is known as Hayley Alice Roberts. 100% Woman of Horror and dedicated genre reviewer since 2011. I manage my own site; 'Hayley's Horror Reviews' and have recently become one half of the 'Ghostface Girls' who provide podcasts and articles over on moviepilot.com. Favorite aspects of the horror genre include slasher films and attending festivals including the Abertoir Horror Festival and Celluloid Screams. Looking forward to sinking my razor sharp teeth into reviewing over here on Love Horror, feel free to comment and tweet me all you gore-geous freaks!

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