ROCKY HORROR SHOW, PERFORMED BY THE ATC. NOV.16-FEB. 2003


This review was from the New Zealand Herald, Nov. 18, 2002:

The Rocky Horror Show at the Sky City Theatre

18.11.2002 - By MICHELE HEWITSON

The retro musical is a truly amazing phenomenon, especially when you consider that the form itself is now retro - the big-bang productions are passe.

That The Rocky Horror Show, 30 years after it began its strange cultish relationship with audiences, should still transfix with its silly story of what happens when innocent sexuality meets a bunch of committed copulators in fishnets should be beyond amazing.

But The Rocky Horror Show was born retro: it came from the 1950s of bad sci-fi films, from Flash Gordon and It Came From Outer Space.

And from the inner space that was the strange imagination of a New Zealand kid called Richard O'Brien, who seems to have done his growing-up in little movie theatres in a farming community.

Part of the reason for its enduring, and endearing, success is that Rocky Horror out-kitsches its kitsch influences while also mercilessly taking the mickey out of the big-bang musical.

The catch is that in refusing to take itself seriously, a production of The Rocky Horror has to play it straight - like all good farce.

The Auckland Theatre Company's production, under the direction of Simon Prast, gets the big bang bang on.

Designer John Parker's skewed take on gothic-meets-early-science-fiction is delightfully cornball.

It is whiz-bang with whistles-on wizardry. Or rocketry - when there is alien lift-off, the entire theatre is caught in the after-blast.

There are some updated references. A doorbell plays a snippet from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Craig Parker as the narrator (a role he will alternate with Oliver Driver) is Matrix-suave, a wry seen-it-all-before commentator who picks his way through the action with elegant ease.

And in Joel Tobeck's Frank 'N' Furter there is a sly and clever reference to that ad he does on the telly where he plays himself as a series of shop assistants - including a pearl-wearing lady assistant.

His Frank'N' Furter is a marvellous creation. In his corset and fishnets - and, yes, pearls - Tobeck is louche and lithe. He is a sinewy feline predator, but one who stomps rather than struts, and never hams it up, in his platform shoes.

Tobeck was brought in to play the role after the death of Kevin Smith earlier this year, and his casting has proved an inspired choice.

Tobeck can even carry a tune, and what's more, you can hear what he's singing - most of the time.

Which brings us to the problem with the production. In a toss-up between actors who can sing a bit and singers who can act a bit, The Rocky Horror Show demands the former.

But it also depends on a sound mix which lets an audience hear the words. With the exception of the very good Roy Snow as the very assured Brad (a big ask when you spend much of the night wearing Y-fronts), who you can hear all of the time, the sound was subterranean.

Mikey Havoc, as Eddie/Dr Scott may have cut a lovely figure of a monster ego out of control (more inspired casting) with an axe through his head, but it was a pity you couldn't hear a word he said/sang.

If ATC can sort the sound out - and it must - it will have a show which is not just a entertaining encounter of a very strange kind, but a truly amazing production.



ęCopyright 2002, NZ Herald