It’s only been four years since intergalactic transsexuals last graced the Festival Centre’s stage. Leaving the theatre in March of 2014, surrounded by fishnet-enthused masses, I felt confident I’d witnessed the definitive production of The Rocky Horror Show. And so, in 2018, I found myself wondering ‘why am I doing the time warp again?’ The answer, of course, is because it’s a pleasure re-watching a classic and cult classics are even more fun.
The Rocky Horror Show, in all of its science-fiction-B-grade-horror-movie-crossover glory, has endured the test of time. Since it’s premiere 45 years ago the show has entertained countless audiences throughout changing social, political and economic climates. President Nixon was in office when the show premiered in 1974 and, while we may feel like we’re in a ‘Time Warp’ in Trumpian 2018, audiences are still loving every reinterpretation and reincarnation of The Rocky Horror Show.
Presumably readers of this review will be aware of the recent media coverage that has resulted in a significant divergence from what was originally billed for the 2018 touring production. These changes were necessary to maintain the integrity of the production and, while some theatregoers may be disappointed by the last minute changes, the happy byproduct of this awful, awful situation is that the present iteration of The Rocky Horror Show is spectacular.
And so is Adam Rennie – the newest Frank-N-Furter!
It was impossible to avoid the media build up. On the edge of their seats, the audience was a powder-keg of anticipation and trepidation, fuelled by the Narator’s (Cameron Daddo) ominous exposition. How would Adam Rennie portray the iconic character, and would he be able to rise to the occasion?
The anticipation steadily built as the love struck Brad (Rob Mallett) and Janet (Michelle Smitheram) suffered their misadventures – I really do love ‘Dammit, Janet!’ – and the audience was ready to explode when doors finally opened to reveal Adam Rennie! There was a palpable feeling of relief in the auditorium as the new ‘Sweet Transvestite’ was finally revealed.
Adam Rennie, the quintessential quadruple threat (singer, actor, dancer, looks good in fishnets), is more than up to the challenge. His stage presence is equal to that of a veteran’s, and his portrayal is thoroughly wicked; oozing with overt innuendo and sensuality, with a dash of humility that humanises the ‘larger than life’ Frank-N-Furter. He is so comfortable and confident in his ‘star of the show’ role, while also managing to highlight the phenomenal ensemble and supporting performances around him.
Returning cast member Kristian Lavercombe, Amanda Harrison and Nadia Komazec are wonderful as Frank-N-Furter’s entourage; Riff Raff, Magenta and Columbia. Kristian’s piercing voice is perfect to belt out the ‘Time Warp’. While the weight of expectation lies at Adam Rennie’s feet, The Rocky Horror Show really is an ensemble effort. Geoffry Winter as Eddie/Dr Scott, and Bianca Baykara, Ross Chisari, Hayley Martin and Stephen McDowell as the phantoms, manufacture the high-energy foundation that supports Adam Rennie’s success. But, to be fair, the same was true in the 2014 The Rocky Horror Show.
Brendan Irving, the only other remaining cast member from both the 2014 and 2018 seasons, plays Frank-N-Furter’s marvellous creation Rocky. Somehow, the ‘perfect-specimen-of-a-man’ is even more muscular now – How is that even possible!?
As with all productions of The Rocky Horror Show, audience interjections occur. The frequent audience additions, in the large part, enhanced the experience. Unfortunately, when heckling audience members turned on one another, things got a little uncomfortable… Cameron Daddo and Adam Rennie deflected or enhanced the audience exclamations like seasoned pros.
The Rock Horror Show’s first act was the fastest, highest energy, and most enjoyable 45 minutes of theatre I’ve seen so far. It proves that regardless of who is in the hot-seat, The Rocky Horror Show will continue to engage and entertain. With Adam Rennie at the helm, Frank-N-Furter is in good hands, and I’m sure that he will make this role his own for a long time to come.
Note: The Adelaide season closed the day after this review date. The show is playing in Brisbane until February 11 before heading to Perth.