Australian Dance Reviews

‘The Rocky Horror Show’ echoes the era it emerged from

'The Rocky Horror Show' Australia 2023. Photo by Daniel Boud.
'The Rocky Horror Show' Australia 2023. Photo by Daniel Boud.

Theatre Royal, Sydney.
18 February 2023.

The Rocky Horror Show is currently playing in Sydney at the Theatre Royal for its 50th Anniversary tour. Rocky Horror has been playing to audiences continually since its inception in 1973, to a gathering of 63 audience members. It has worked its way up to cult status, having been seen in numerous countries the world over, by generations of fans. 

Rocky Horror is about fresh-faced young adults Brad and Janet, who blow a tire on a dark road, and they go to get help. They end up in the creepy mansion of transvestite scientist Dr Frank N Furter, who loves to party, and has a house full of misfits and aliens, who also like to have fun. 

The opening night went off with a bang, with a colourful show and colourful audience ‘dressed to excess’, partying the night away. It was loud, it was glorious, it was a lot of fun. In true Rocky Horror style, there was a lot of audience interaction, and celebrities cast in leads, with Jason Donovan as extra-terrestrial mad-scientist Frank N Furter, and Myf Warhurst as the Narrator. Both gave it their all, albeit perhaps playing on the humour a little more than the shock value the original production contained. Henry Rollo was brilliant as Riff Raff, embodying his character with gusto that was endearing, funny and full of presence. He was probably the best thing about this production. 

Choreographically, the familiar “Time Warp” number was bursting with energy and loads of fun as the audience reared up and joined in. Movement throughout the show was nicely reflective of genre, and characterisation by the ensemble was on point. There was a lovely choreographic use of the set pieces throughout the work, a fun car at the beginning for Brad and Janet, cartoonish out-of-proportion buildings in the distance for the suburban house and then the creepy castle. There were wonderful big renditions of science lab equipment, giving the impression of being in a situation that was definitively out of Brad and Janet’s depth.

The show itself is not a well-written story or musical. It is an entertainment piece more suited to a club than a theatre, although with such a huge history and even bigger following, it will likely continue to garner fans for decades to come, wherever it is played. In this showing, the lyrics were hard to understand, it was too loud and did not have the oomph it would have had originally. It is more a nostalgic piece at this point, echoing the era it emerged from. Overall, the show had a tameness to it, albeit still a cheekiness, but with the feeling of a polished production over a performance we the audience are intended to interact with and be scandalised by. With the many offerings of newer, well-written work on offer, perhaps Rocky Horror can rely on fans of the work and the era to keep it coming, but perhaps it does not now have the same draw cards it once held.   

Tickets for Rocky Horror Show 50th Anniversary Production can be purchased for Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide at

By Linda Badger of Dance Informa.

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