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Live / stage review

"Bold, saucy and larger than life": The Rocky Horror Show

Reviewer Paul Szabo invites you to "leave your inhibitions in the foyer" and enjoy the raucous Rocky Horror Show at the Lyceum. 

A selection of people on a stage

Rocky Horror Show

David Freeman

This year marks 50 years of The Rocky Horror Show and Richard O’Brien’s cult musical needs very little introduction. The show follows Brad and Janet, two archetypal 50s Americana sweethearts who stumble upon the castle of Frank-N-Furter; a cross-dressing, hyper-sexualised scientist and force of nature, on the evening that he is to bring his Frankenstein-esque playmate, Rocky, to life.

As a musical the show remains bold, saucy and very much larger than life and, like Frank’s own creation, the show has taken on a life of its own. With its affectionate nod to the B-Movie science fiction genre of the 50s and its rock'n'roll influence front and centre, Rocky Horror has fiercely loyal fans and an unparalleled cult following.

A very glamorous person with feather headwear under red lighting

Rocky Horror Show

David Freeman

This terrific production drew those fans to the Sheffield Lyceum on opening night, with many dressed up as characters from the show. There was an abundance of good-natured heckling, some of which was part of an “unwritten script” whereby the audience respond to characters on stage, and some slightly more random in nature.

Nonetheless, it enhanced an absolutely electric atmosphere in the theatre. Rocky Horror is essentially an adult panto, and one that everyone in the auditorium bought into.

Expertly marshalling the crowd, Jackie Clune excelled in her role as The Narrator, cracking improvised quips to tame the audience and let them know that no matter how good their heckle, there is always a better put down.

The role of Frank-N-Furter is so iconic that you need a larger-than-life personality to fill the fishnets, and Stephen Webb does a great job blending Frank’s camptastic alluring persona with an underlying gruffness to his vocal performance. Ben Westhead and Richard Meek both surprised as Rocky and Brad respectively with incredible vocals and strong performances.

In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a weak link within the cast in this top-notch production; those on stage looked as though they were enjoying themselves as much as the audience.

Rocky Horror is presented here in all its gloriously loud, colourful, neon Day-glo garishness, with a luxurious, almost cartoon-like set. This was accompanied by immersive lighting design by Nick Richings that flooded the stage in reds, greens and purples, and steady direction by Christopher Luscombe.

Having lost its power to shock with its risqué themes, what remains is a wonderfully funny slice of tongue-in-cheek kitsch. The show remains a theatrical juggernaut and the atmosphere at any Rocky Horror performance is one that has to be experienced in person.

Warm up your vocal cords, leave your inhibitions in the foyer and enjoy the experience.

Learn more

The Rocky Horror Show is at Sheffield Lyceum Theatre until Saturday 28 January 2023. Details of Sheffield Theatres accessibility policy can be found here.

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