Richard O'Brien Opera House, Manchester 09 January 2019 to 26 January 2019
Back again, 46 years after this still mildly outrageous mix of B movie sci-fi and sex first broke theatrical boundaries, Rocky this time around is basically the same Christopher Luscombe-directed staging that was created for the 40th anniversary tour, and none the worse for that.
The show having been performed countless thousands of times in 30 countries in 20 languages, the novelty for Manchester is that Beverley Callard, aka Corrie’s Liz McDonald, has taken on the hot seat role as Narrator.
Currently embroiled in a nasty hit and run on screen, on stage Ms Callard – who has admitted she doesn’t know the show as well as its average punter – proved pretty much a hit at parrying the traditional audience heckling and by the end was rockin’ with the rest of them.
Overall, what can be said about Rocky that hasn’t been said before?
Well, its gender-fluid content no longer surprises like it once did, the real world having somewhat caught up. And, There’s A Light (Over At The Frankenstein Place) now has the audience waving their mobiles rather than fag lighters, much safer all round.
The narrative stands the test of time; it’s got terrific forward momentum, propelled by a continually inventive score and lyrics.
The company here – it’s a company show – is a very good one, they treat the hallowed content with the seriousness it deserves rather than sending it up … though they don’t always deliver the lines the way I ideally like them. But then that hasn’t happened since my yardstick production at the Wythenshawe Forum back in the 1980s.
Just in case you don’t know, it’s the story of Brad and Janet, two impossibly innocent American college kids who find themselves trapped in a spooky castle owned by one Frank ’n’ Furter, who is currently very much involved in creating Rocky, his very own lust interest.
Leading the charge as Frank, that eternally sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania, is vastly experienced musicals man Stephen Webb, who can really belt out the big numbers with gusto and wear a basque with pride. Callum Evans's Rocky is probably the best I've ever seen, incredibly athletic and still able to deliver his numbers after multiple somersaults.
Strictly’s Joanne Clifton is an ideally prim Janet, partnering perfectly with super-nerdish Ben Adams as Brad, while Kristian Lavercombe reprises his Riff Raff for the 1,300th-plus time.
Does it still work? Yes it darn well does. It was a brilliant creation in its day and remains so now. Thank you, Richard O’Brien.