Wednesday 12 July 2023

THEATRE REVIEW: The Rocky Horror Show - The Lyceum Theatre, Crewe

In a world of constant change, especially in recent years, with multiple crises, it is comforting to find some things that still provide a feeling of constancy and well-being. One such item is surely ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ which always seems to be on tour somewhere in the country and remains largely unchanged 50 years on from when Richard O’Brien decided to fill some time between jobs writing a musical.

‘The Rocky Horror Show’ is the cheeky, punk alternative to big West-End/Broadway musicals from the likes of Lloyd-Webber and Rodgers & Hammerstein, but it is now a big show in its own right, usually selling out large venues and gathering new fans year on year as it enters its second half-century.

When most of the audience already knows the script, and with so many familiar characters and moments, the problem in presenting this show is to meet everyone’s expectations whilst at the same time somehow appearing to be true to the original. This production managed to achieve just that, without reinventing the wheel. With superb staging and clear attention to detail, this was an excellent presentation.

Every nuance of the music made familiar in the 1975 film version was there, giving essentially simple songs a very sophisticated feel, with a heavy dose of sax. Interestingly, an additional song was given to Brad, akin to a Buddy Holly slow-roller, which took the mood than for a short time (but was it penned by Richard O’Brien?).

The sets were a feast for the eyes, with an array of curious items (as you might expect to find in a Frankenstein house!) thoughtfully included to enhance the right backdrop, from a mounted Dodo’s head in the hall to a huge brain in the lab. A nice touch was a huge translucent roll of film across the top of the set, providing an extra singing-stage for some cast members as well as a constant reminder that it was old sci-fi B-movies that provided much of the inspiration for the Rocky Horror Show.

The show’s cast was like a fully matured fine wine, with many members being old hands in regular tours of the show. Philp Franks was outstanding as the narrator showing remarkable ad-lib versatility in exchanges with the audience. Franks seems to have a ready-made stock of quick-fire retorts to virtually any retort, clearly updated regularly to include the very latest new news (in this case, BBC presenters and waking up next to Kevin Spacey). Kristian Lavercombe was a very memorable Riff Raff, a part he has performed well over 2,000 performances so it’s perhaps not surprising he is comfortable with the script. Stephen Webb, also well-honed in his role as Frank N Furter, had the audience in the palm of his hand. However, anyone familiar with the classic 1975 film version would not be disappointed with any of the representations of all the familiar characters in this production; ‘Rocky Horror’ is after all ultimately an ensemble show with all the characters sparking off each other. It is also worth noting that some members of the cast such as Ben Westwood in the role of Rocky were relatively new to the show but you would not have known it with the relaxed, precision feel from all concerned. Haley Flaherty and Ricard Meek certainly worked well as Brad and Janet, with this production taking a slightly more in-depth look than is usual at their developing relationship.

This was a truly refreshing and enjoyable presentation of a very well-known show, certainly giving new things for fans who know ‘Rocky Horror’ inside out as well as presenting a more or less perfect rendition for anyone who had never seen the show before; very highly recommended as an exciting, sexy and hilarious night out.

Reviewer - John Waterhouse
on - 10.7.23


  1. Hi John,
    Nice review. To answer your question about Brad's song "Once in a While". It was in the original stage musical and is indeed written by Richard O'Brien.

    It was cut from the movie version "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" apparently as it was thought it slowed the movie down, but has always been in the stage show.

    1. Ah. Thanks for clarifying that. I can see why the song was cut - it wasn't bad in itself but I think slowed down the pace of the stage version a little.