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Some Random ROCKY Ramblings From A Sceptred Isle
Well the new tour of “The Rocky Horror Big 30 Show” made it to Glasgow after its opening two weeks in Bromley. I say this to help excuse some of the cast, in that they were possibly still easing into their parts. I do not want this statement to make you think I am going to be Ultra-Negative, but there are a few faults with the production.
Let us wind time back a little though. We (Dr. Scott’s Extra Forks) were approached by the Ambassador Group, who both own the Kings Theatre in Glasgow and were the production company behind the current show, to do some publicity for them. We agreed and began a two-week in-costume publicity push around the city. We pushed flyers into punters' hands, in the street, when they were drinking and we even performed a few numbers to them over their beers! This culminated in us providing a few in costume characters on the afternoon of Opening night to add some colour to the press photographs. The manager allowed us to wait in the green room before the show and we were able to see and hear the vocal warm up before the show. This was the first time we were hearing the renditions from this production and there were a few cringe worthy versions! (It should be stated that the performers were largely clowning around and the sole purpose was to obtain sound levels and warm the actors up prior to the show.)
The show begins when the audience files in – there is the usual shouting and cheering as those with good costumes arrive and get an ovation. There is much taking of photographs and great space to pose. Then the phantoms come out, this time round they are actually quite drab, and in Glasgow, they were not permitted to speak to the audience. They are wearing maroon dress jackets (with black trim) and coloured frilly shirts. These were a definite disappointment from the previous tour where they were in Black fitted costumes – once onto the stage they did change into this style of outfit, so that look was not completely lost. They introduced the Usherette, who came out to sing “Science Fiction Double Feature”. I have never seen quite a mess of a costume as this poor lady had been forced to wear. The costume was a pink and white “raspberry ripple” patterned baby doll top, with a white PVC skirt made of small overlapping squares of material. She had white PVC Go-Go boots; white gloves and topped the whole lot off with a giant blonde beehive. The performance of Andrea Stevens was at least workman like – she added little to the character that has not been seen many times before.
Next Brad and Janet, There was a deliberate attempt to set the look in the early ‘70’s,fair point as we are on the 30th anniversary tour and with Brad, this was pulled off. He wore a power blue suit with flared trousers and frilly shirt in a pinky/purple. Janet on the other hand was in a pale blue ‘50’s style outfit, very similar to her costume on the last tour. Although a nice costume in itself, it created a mismatch between them and this jarred. Jon Boydon has created quite a sensitive Brad, who seems totally out of his depth with the events that surround him. This vulnerability is beautifully brought out when he sings “Once in a While”. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Katie Rowley-Jones, as Janet, she should have a naďveté at least until Frank seduces her. Then she becomes a sex predator. However, here you could readily believe from her suggestive nods and winks and delivery that she had already had the entire Denton High football tem, the swim team and made a good start on the basket and baseball teams! She was a slut from the start and this destroys the character, as she has cut most of her development.
Riff and Magenta, two parts with few lines between them, can be easily consigned to the background if in the hands of actors with little presence or ingenuity. We have seen some great examples; Richard and Pat for example, or Georgie Hayes and Laurie Brett, both teamings quite magical, but in this case, Neil Couperthwaite and Andrea Stevens just didn’t cut the mustard. They both just blended into the background, shame. Andrea was not helped by her costume which looked like Magenta had just pulled down the net curtains dyed them black and stitched them onto herself, not flattering or inspired! Particularly after the last tour's lovley tiger-print outfit
Frank was OK. Faint praise I know, but Jonathan Wilkes was a lovely bloke afterwards and seemed genuinely interested in what the fans had to say. On stage I felt his Frank had no “Attitude” and this made him a little too nice for Frank. His showmanship and singing were great, but he was just not nasty enough to fully pull off Frank. Certainly one of the most beautiful stage Franks I have seen – but that might just have been me!
Rocky was fine in the role – “Every old Queens wet dream”! In Glasgow he was wearing what was apparently the walk down trunks (A black and white Leopard skin print). This was a little disappointing as I felt the theme of a Pearl anniversary could have meant an opalescent Ivory material or even silver trunks. Still he filled them very well!
Columbia, Sally Hunt, on the other hand was one of the highlights of the show! I liked the idea of turning away from Gold Sequins – and before I am sliced to death by belligerent “Film Columbia’s”, I should point out that I like the stage show to exhibit a little chutzpah and deviated form the films designs. The top she first wears is a green fun fur fabric, with a holograph material waistcoat. She was also wearing a pair of denim with pink patterning shorts. Sally has added a nice adlib as well – when Frank asks what she sees in Eddie, she replied “He had a Motorcycle!” I know it sounds dumb on paper but it was funny on the night! She was certainly the shinning beacon in the show.
Speaking of Eddie (and Doctor Scott) what can we say? – A tour-de-force performance from Drew Jamieson, fresh from the part of Steve Strange in London’s West End “TABOO”. He took the two parts and invested so much in them. Eddie came out of the freezer as if he had been sewn back together inexpertly, he had a limp because one of his legs was sewn back on the wrong way, and his Right arm was misshapen at the elbow leaving him only able to hold a microphone! The best thing I’ve seen done to Eddie in many a long year! His Dr. Scott was fantastic, he arrived onstage looking like Albert Einstein’s manic younger brother! He controlled the stage when ever he was on. His performance was stunning; a great lesson in showing what can be done with the two small parts in the show.
Finally the Narrator played in the Scottish venues by Rhona Cameron, was (after a faltering opening night) fabulous. Her costume on the first night was Nick Bateman’s (The Narrator from the Bromley run of the show) walk down costume it was horrible and didn’t fit her, so much so that she replied to the line “How strange was it?” “Not as strange as the thinking behind this costume!” For the rest of the run in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, she wore a black satin suit with sequin detailing on the left breast and cuff. By the third day of the show she had lost most of her nerves and was really sassy with audience, a great Narrator! By public demand she is returning to the Irish shows in January!
The set, well they obviously visited IKEA, I think the idea is to make the interior of the castle like a spaceship, but as this disign is not carried through all the design motifs it is not obvious and I feel falls completely flat 10/10 for idea minus several million for the execution! It was Naff – capital “N”! The principal backdrop was a circle of shiny reflective metal with a criss cross pattern inset to it, of a matt metal; this was split down the middle to act as a door. The reflective disc was so highly polished that it acted as a mirror blinding people in the front couple of rows when the follow spots hit them, not brilliant design.
The biggest change to the show itself is the moving round of “The Time Warp” and “Sweet T”. In this production “Sweet T” comes first, as it did in the original (and all pre-Film release) productions. Some have said this means that Frank is on and then off and then on again, rather than once he’s on, he dominates the show until his death, and having the songs this way round diminishes that somewhat. I can see this and do feel the show works slightly better with “the Time Warp” first, but on the night it was a pleasant surprise.
I know this seems to be a catalogue of problems but the show on the whole was enjoyable and the audience seemed to be it’s usual boisterous self. “Rocky Horror” is cannoning headlong to his 30th birthday but shows little sign of running out of steam!