It’s been over 40 years since the Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show premiered, but it seems that age has taken its toll on the outrageous stage production once renowned for pushing social boundaries. However, this time, in it’s place, is an over manufactured force that feels more like a performance of Phantom of the Opera than the chaotic party it originated as.
With lack of lips singing the famed “Science Fiction/Double Feature”, and in its place a dreary usher-dressed Magenta sitting on stage, so begins the bizarre story, this time without much edge. Following the newly engaged, all-American innocents Janet and Brad as they stumble across a madcap mansion and even crazier house members, it’s not until the appearance of Frank N Furter midway in the first half that the show begins to pick up the lunacy and become fun.
The key to the Rocky Horror Show is that all performers give as much to the performance as the audience gives in return. But in this case, all performers on stage appear to either be trying too hard or not trying hard enough. Amy Lehpamer is excellent as Janet, this time sporting a new hairstyle than the traditional one Janet is supposed to wear, and Stephen Mahy is also splendid as Brad. But it is Craig McLachlan who makes the whole experience worth it, with his hilarious portrayal of transvestite Frank N Furter the highlight of the show – a role that won him a Helpmann Award in 2014.
However what holds the show back, and what is clear throughout, is the strict direction and dedication of the show to be a formulated and awe-inspiring show, without the spontaneity and brilliance of the original material. The fun of the musical is how the audience can be involved and how the show is one huge party. Instead we face a stale and unexciting production that is more focused on a fantastic sounds from the performers.
Fortunately Stephen Gray and the band make up for the lack of acting excitement with supreme sound, accompanied by the great Kristian Lavercombe as Riff Raff and Jayde Westerby as Magenta. And while it may take a long time to look beyond the too small set design on the Lyric Theatre stage, ultimately The Rocky Horror Show is a fun night out, but one without much point or originality.