Growing up in the 70's/80's the Rocky Horror (Picture) Show - both in its stage but more so in its film version - influenced our generation. There are not many children of my generation (and now later ones) who have not seen the cult 1975 film starring Tim Curry and Susan Sarandon.
Curry, playing Frank n Furter in the celluloid version of the show (after appearing in the inaugural London stage version in 1973) pushed the boundaries of what was decent and acceptable in that era.
With the film's initial release in 1975, it was a box office flop. Twentieth Century Fox intervened, made a few edits and song changes and re-released the movie at midnight in April 1976. The film became a cult theatrical experience as audiences began lining up in costume and character to get into the screenings of the movie. It became a combined celluloid / live experience as audience members shouted out lines, danced in the aisles and took on their favourite alter egos. The Rocky Horror phenomenon was born.
There is no denying the show's influence and growth into cult status. The incredibly energetic music and diverse story has become iconic and legendary 40 years after its debut. With regular screenings of the movie still drawing crowds, the live version gives those keen fans their moment to shine.
Rocky Horror is about the enthusiastic, energetic audience members who eagerly dig out the fishnets, suspenders, high heels and appropriate wigs dressing in character for the event. There are a few secret Magentas, Frank n Furters and Riff Raffs living in the burbs of Brisbane. I discovered a trio of these enthusiasts at my recent Rocky Horror theatre experience at Brisbane's Lyric Theatre.
Horse Trainers by day, this group of friends from Samford, slipped into their alter egos and were happy to pose for photos. I even heard our Magenta maid, on our way out, thanking people for coming! There must be something about donning a costume and taking on a new persona, especially if its one of the gaudy, slightly out there aliens from the Rocky Horror Picture show.
Die hard Brisbane fans
The show in its 1973 stage debut and 1975 screen debut was considered risque and a little raunchy. With the passage of time, has the 2014 stage show amped up in that area?
Not this version. It still may raise the eyebrows of any conservative audience members (not sure why they would be there,) but beyond that the format has not radically altered from its original 70's version. The sexual jokes and innuendos we have heard before - but that did not stop Craig McLachlan from milking them as much as he so confidently can. This is the best part of a Live show. The more fun he had, the more the audience enjoyed themselves, giving McLachlan fuel to go to town with purely hedonistic overtones.
Reprising the role he played 22 years ago on stage, (Brisbane audiences missed out due to his prior filming commitments) McLachlan confidently rocks the stage. With his footballer-shaped thighs, McLachlan struts, kicks and flicks those legs and gives plenty sassy ass wiggles. There are plenty of females in the audience wishing for his confidence on three inch heels.
As Frank, he commands the cast follows the fun he is having - playing humorous, cheeky, eccentrically butch and gay to perfection.
Richard O'Brien the enigmatic show's creator at 71 was at the opening night in Brisbane and lead the cast in an encore of the Time Warp. "The audience knows its a non-sensical piece of fun," says O'Brien. "You feel the level of excitement in the audience, they go wild if they see one person dressed as Frank and when the curtain goes up there is no holding them back."
There are no guarantees an audience will always rock the joint and embrace the evening. Our crowd seemed more on the conservative side. Our three horse trainers agreed. They won tickets to the opening night dress rehearsal, "the audience that evening were much wilder and most were dressed in character. The atmosphere, was incredible. Tonight's audience seems a little more sedate. We shall see at the end."
Rocky Horror is simply a fun theatre experience, a show filled with timeless songs that are crowd favourites. Despite our audience of Baby boomers to Gen Z's not being as crazy as other nights, we still had fun - even if they were not dancing in the aisles, they were singing along.
The stand out performances of the evening (for me) were McLachlan romping the stage as Frank; Kristian Lavercombe playing a fabulously sinister Riff Raff and Erika Heynatz as his sister Magenta, convincing as a vampish, wild, femme fatale.
McLachlan reckons at 48 there may not be many more years left for his body and his footballer sized pins to confidently strut the high heels and fishnets. When his Frank n Furter stage soiree is over, I am fairly sure there will be many special requests for him to "do the I'm just a sweet Transvestite, from Transsexual, Transylvania aaaa ahhhaa." There are not many who can do it like he does!
Craig, hang onto the heels and fishnets - you've still got it.