The Rocky Horror Picture Show – 40 Years & Still Rocking… Just!

William J Connolly
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(Oliver Thornton and company in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Photo:

Sheffield Lyceum Theatre | April 2013, 7:45pm

Full of fun, energy and the crazy life of Richard O’Brien, Rocky Horror celebrates its 40th birthday, but loses touch with younger audiences.

Richard O’Brien’s cult-hit musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show arrived at the Sheffield Lyceum Theatre this past Monday, celebrating its 40th year of rocking audiences worldwide.

Created by Richard O’Brien and Jim Sharman as a tribute to science fiction and horror B movies, the show follows the lives of Brad and Janet, a young couple that breakdown on their way home through a dark forest and call for help at a mysterious house.

Unfortunately, that is where the depth of the storyline ends. I couldn’t help but find the writing weak and without substance. In a society where individualism is celebrated so easily, and musicals such as Cabaret and Priscilla are so popular, men dressed in female clothing just doesn’t have the same shock factor I imagine it did at the time of the show’s creation 40 years ago.

Although other narratives do occur throughout the 2 hour production, such as the creation of a tanned muscle man Rocky through science, admittedly played very well by Harry Neale, and the bed-hopping between Frank N Furter and the romantic leads, the show drags on through poorly-written songs and dull and unimaginative dance routines.

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The show does however have the occasional gentle moment, most noticeably taken by Frank N Furter. Unfortunately however they don’t last.

A featured member of the ensemble, whose name and role undeservingly isn’t featured, took my favourite moment of the show, opening with ‘Science Fiction, Double Feature’. With these gorgeous vocals it was a great opening to the show and I was hooked from the beginning. It was just a shame it didn’t last.

Audiences however weren’t put off by the mid-week performance, still taking to the streets of Sheffield in full stocking and suspenders; and that was just the men! Once you get past the initial shock of all the performers, and almost all the men offstage and onstage, wearing suspenders and tight pants, the show becomes very hollow.

I couldn’t help but notice many other younger audience members feeling disengaged with the piece itself, almost questioning what was going on. Despite this the audience was continually on their feet, dancing throughout the show, most noticeably during the iconic centrepiece of the show, the ‘Time Warp.

The show however belongs to the tall, long-legged leading man of Oliver Thornton. Recently back from a three-year stretch in the Australian outback in Priscilla – Queen of the Desert on London’s West End, Thornton is every-bit as comfortable in the stockings, suspenders and high-heels of Rocky Horror, commanding every inch of the iconic role of Frank N Furter.

Carrying himself with confidence in the heels and highly revealing outfits, he demanded the full attention of the audience from his first entrance 25 minutes into the show. Thornton is a great example of character research and pure talent together.


Its weak writing aside, the production is held together with a strong cast of supporting actors. Credit must go to Kristian Lavercombe as Riff Raff and Philip Franks as The Narrator. Both deliver vocally sublime performances with equally hilarious character portrayals.

As is tradition with the show, its romantic leading lady was cast with a television celebrity. It was great to experience an understudy performance in Rachel Grundy, covering for an ill Roxanne Pallett, as Janet Weiss. Dancing on Ice star Sam Attwater also made a great addition to the cast as Brad Majors.

The legacy of the show itself is clearly visible throughout the evening, with the audience singing along loudly from the opening to the final number. Audience support and younger audience members’ curiosity for the cult no doubt helps to fill theatres forty years on.

All said and done, I enjoyed my evening in heels, makeup and dress at Rocky Horror, however, without the party atmosphere and audience support the show would be a weak school production at most.

rocky horror william connolly

Tour venue and ticket information is available on the official Rocky Horror website:

About William J Connolly

Theatre journalist | Ex: The Times Newspaper, London 2012 (PR) and Marketing Manager for CHTC (Sheffield Lyceum). Twitter: @WJConnolly

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