_REVIEW.   it’s about _THEATRE.   words _KYLE PEDLEY.
  at _WOLVERHAMPTON GRAND.   tickets _OFFICIAL SITE.   booking until _10th FEB.

February 6, 2024

images © David Freeman.

Note: TWE reviewed  ‘Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show’ earlier in its current tour. Given that this is the same touring production, what follows is a revised version of that same review, updated for its visit to the Wolverhampton Grand.

Let’s do the timewarp, again.


When it comes to musical favourites on repeat, Rocky Horror Show is the flag-waving, heel-kicking standard bearer for keep on keepin’ on. It should, by now, be spouted in theatre circles that the only things to survive a nuclear holocaust would likely be cockroaches, Liz Truss’ inexplicable career, and a touring production of Richard O’Brien’s madcap classic.

And yet, as the world turns, doing its own ‘jump to the left and step to the right’ in the process, the times that this venerable production (nigh identical in staging to when this particular author first reviewed, over a decade ago) finds itself landing in are a-changing, too.

Perhaps more than ever in recent memory, in the wake and gloom of a pandemic, the drab ebb of financial crises, international wars and humanitarian crises and the regressive, authoritarian stamp being slapped across the world onto expression, individuality and flamboyance, the world needs Rocky Horror.

It’s fortunate then, that the class of 2023/24 – a mix of veterans and newcomers alike to camp Rocky – rise to the occasion for this current World tour.

As the now-iconic splash of the show’s Columbia character and logo proudly boasts, this latest run marks the fiftieth anniversary of the camp, formerly cult, favourite. In appearance, bells and whistles, it’s practically the exact same glitzy, colourful trip as was wheeled out for its fortieth, too, but that’s no bad thing. Hugh Durrant’s B-movie-meets-Christie set stylings, Nick Richings’ technicolor barrage of fifties’ sci-fi lighting and Sue Blane’s seminal costumes – we’ve been here before, but it’s devilishly good to be back.

And it’s great to have some familiar faces along for the ride, too – Stephen Webb slips back into the stockings with rich ease as the iconic ‘Frank n Furter’, with his full-bodied, handsomely-sung and admirably unique spin on the role once again a joy. Any Rocky Horror worth its smut needs a ‘Frank’ that commands the stage, and Webb does so with delicious relish – soaring vocals at the ready, figure-hugging corset strapped tight, ridiculously oversized whip in hand.

Elsewhere, veteran ‘Narrator’ Philip Franks – who played the role in that very same inaugural review of mine back in the halcyon days of 2012 – is clearly still having a ball and showing no signs of languishing. This time round, he had plenty of topical detours to inject and an especially game Wolverhampton audience to bandy shoutouts, ad-libs and double entendres with.

And for the first time in over a decade of appraising the show, the performance reviewed was the first for this particular writer where iconic henchman, ‘Riff Raff’ (O’Brien’s own role in the original) was not played by the seminal Kristian Lavercombe. Instead, understudy Ryan Carter-Wilson had the daunting task of stepping into the hunched back and big sings of a character that Lavercombe has now famously played over 2,000 times. Yet from the outset, delivering stunning vocal highs on the riffs and belts of ‘Over at the Frankstenstein Place’ before cackling and contorting up a storm for the ‘Time Warp’, Carter-Wilson smashed any doubts aside, and served up terrific work and a top knotch Riff Raff.

No mean feat, given he is surrounded by probably the most uniformly-excellent Rocky cast that this particular reviewer has had the pleasure of shouting ‘c*ck’ at (and there have been many… casts that is, not the latter…). Richard Meek, another returnee, seems perfectly plucked from the era as a stroppy, boyish Brad with a tender, soulful voice, whilst stage veteran Haley Flaherty struts, slinks and shimmies back into the show with a masterclass Janet – comfortably the best reviewed to date (again, this is no small praise – she has some excellent predecessors).

“…the irresistible, hilarious, unabashedly camp and infectiously naughty Rocky Horror with its sonic oscillator dialled all the way up to ‘perfection’”

Darcy Finden’s Columbia? Exquisite. Ben Westhead’s Rocky? Fabulous (and certainly passes the Charles Atlas test). Joe Allen’s Eddie-Dr Scott duality? My favourite to date. Suzie McAdams, also on dual duty, as both Usherette and Magenta? Delicious and definitive.

If you notice a pattern emerging, it’s no science fiction, nor have I been seduced by an errant transducer.

This is, quite simply, the irresistible, hilarious, unabashedly camp and infectiously naughty Rocky Horror with its sonic oscillator dialled all the way up to ‘perfection’.

Sure, if you trawl wide and far enough, you’ll likely find some commentators taking pot shots at its representation of transvestism. Others, still, will probably pluck at a thread and find themselves arriving somewhere in the ballpark of perceived transphobia, but again, it feels very much like ‘square peg, round hole’ kind of revisionism.

In truth, for what is now five proud decades, Rocky Horror has championed and celebrated diversity and expression. It has sung from the hymn book of sex positivity, of gender fluidity, and of not just dreaming it, but being it. All whilst going nowhere near a soapbox, and staying effortlessly entertaining throughout.

Heck, in terms of staying power alone, and indeed one that commands even more fervent fan engagement, dressing up and love than ever before, it demands respect.

But strip away all of the socio-cultural framing, and even just as an evening of sinfully good musical theatre, this is Rocky Horror at the top of its game. A raucous, laugh-out-loud night of non-stop earworms, toe-tapping gems and plenty of post-modern mischief, there may be many informed by its influence, there may be some who consider themselves challengers to the throne (hint: they’re not), and even a merry band of naysayers to its cause, but the truth is quite simple…

There is only one Rocky Horror Show. And it’s still here; loud, proud and still captivating the crowd, performed this time round by across-the-board perfection.

Roll on the centenary.

It was great when it all began… and still is. Board the pretenders on the first ship to Transylvania, this is the one, the only, the original, performed to fishnet-clad, lipstick-smearing perfection.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

why not give us a follow on instagram?

It’s five stars from @kylebpedley for the ‘summery, suburban silliness’ of ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’ at @theRSC. 🎭 

Head on over to the TWE site (link in bio) to read Kyle’s full review of a show which features ‘a comedic masterclass’ from John Hodgkinson as the lecherous Sir John Falstaff.

And catch ‘Merry Wives’ at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on select dates until 7th September (the show runs interchangeably over the summer with ‘The School for Scandal’).

#shakespeare #comedy #funny #review #twe #thingsweenjoy #whatson #summer #summer2024 #recommendation #theatre #rsc #royalshakespearecompany #merrywivesofwindsor #themerrywivesofwindsor
It’s five soaring, stomping stars for @comefromawayuk from @kylebpedley, as this ‘modern marvel of a musical’ places a pin at @brumhippodrome for the next two weeks! 👩‍✈️💙💛💙

Head on over to the TWE site (link in bio) to read Kyle’s full review of this ‘stirring, truthful’ show which boasts ‘a stellar company and razor-sharp direction’.

And catch ‘Come From Away’ in Birmingham until June 1st, after which it continues its tour across the UK and Ireland!

#comefromaway #comefromawaymusical #uktour #musical #theatre #review #birmingham #birminghamhippodrome #whatson #twe #thingsweenjoy
It’s four filthy, fishy and fabulous stars for @unfortunatemusical from @kylebpedley, which he calls a ‘deceptively quite clever, and certainly original’ parody, with ‘a fierce and commanding central turn’ from @shawnahamic! 💜🐙🦀⚓️🎭🎶

You can read Kyle’s full review on the TWE site (link in bio), and can catch ‘Unfortuante’ at @brumhippodrome until Saturday, and then at @wolvesgrand in July! 

#unfortunate #musical #unfortunatemusical #thelittlemermaid #disney #parody #funny #whatson #birmingham #wolverhampton #twe #review #thingsweenjoy
It ain’t ogre ‘til the green lady sings… @shrek_uk is at @thealexbham this week, and @kylebpedley calls it ‘funny, goofy and silly’, with ‘a really excellent cast’… 🧅🫏🧚🐉🏰🎭🎶

Head over to the TWE site (link in bio) to read Kyle’s review in full, and catch the swamp at the Alex until Sun 14th April!

#shrek #shrekmusical #shrekthemusical #theatre #musicaltheatre #review #birmingham #whatson #twe #thingsweenjoy
It’s four tropical, sun-kissed stars for Debbie Isitt’s @soluckymusical from @kylebpedley, which runs at @thealexbham this week! ☀️🏖️🕶️🎶 

Head on over to the TWE site (link in bio) for our full review, and catch the show in Birmingham until 6th April before it jets off for the rest of its UK tour! ✈️ 

#IShouldBeSoLucky #IShouldBeSoLuckyMusical #musical #musicaltheatre #review #uktour #stockaitkenwaterman #kylie #kylieminogue #theatre #stagey #thingsweenjoy #twe
The ‘cultural phenomenon’ flies into Brum ‘with the force of a house-hurling hurricane’ and ‘a cast that will blow your silver slippers right off’ - it’s 5 glowing stars for @wickeduk from @kylebpedley! 

Head on over to the TWE site (link in bio) for the full review, and catch ‘Wicked’ at @brumhippodrome until 7th April, before it flies off to other venues on tour!

#wicked #theatre #birmingham #birminghamhippodrome #whatson #easter #wickeduk #wickedontour #uktour #review #fivestars #twe #thingsweenjoy