Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the North
Phil Hopkins
Arts & Travel Editor
9:00 AM 16th November 2021

The Best Post-Pandemic Tonic – Rocky Horror!

With a nation down in the dumps with protestations about Brexit, ‘the Pandemic’ and pressures on the NHS, what better way to lift the mood than to send a strutting transvestite onto the stage of Bradford’s Alhambra sporting stockings, suspenders and promoting a series of dubious sexual appetites!

Richard O-Brien’s Rocky Horror Show is back in all its gory wonderfulness.

This time I took my very own ‘virgin’ – seasoned followers of this wildly anarchic show will appreciate my reference - Richard the builder from Castleford.

He was not only blown away but still baffled, after several hours, as to why half the population of Bradford, including men, were also wearing stockings and suspenders!

That’s because Rocky Horror now occupies that unique position in theatre that every writer must wish for: that of the cult musical. And, the second you achieve that status, people will keeping going to the show again, and again and again…..which is rather good for Mr O’Brien’s pension pot! It also means the audience get to dress up!

It’s been going for nigh on half a century and gets noisier each year, not simply because of the excellent rock ‘n’ roll bands that seemingly propel this musical through two hours of madness, but because the audience know the script so well that they are able to make their own politically incorrect shout outs!

Which meant top marks for Philip Franks’ ‘Narrator’ This seasoned pro was fantastic with his timed, unruffled but probably well-rehearsed ad-libs. He was seamless and superb.

Stephen Webb as the dubious Frank N Furter, was good but not brilliant. He anchored the show but never quite reached the level of perfection of the part’s originator, Tim Curry and, let’s be honest, certain iconic roles are rapidly benchmarked when a show takes on niche status: the Emcee in Cabaret (Joel Grey); Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews)…..audiences almost demand the original. His accent didn’t quite work for me.

Curry was master of the pregnant pause and languishing over his words like a perverted show off.

And, where was the build up for his first stage entry? It was too quick. The last show at the Leeds Grand a couple of years ago left the audience hanging as the heavy guitar bass played on and built up the protagonist’s first stage entrance, leaving the audience screaming and drooling: too quick and the moment is wasted.

But, again, this was still a great night’s entertainment all those years on from 1973 when it first aired.
These days the ad libs fly thick and fast. Even Owen Paterson, the disgraced MP, found his way in there along with Boris Johnson and some of his other political cronies!

Ben Westhead as Rocky had a physique to die for – perfect casting – whilst Ore Oduba and Haley Flaherty as Brad and Janet were excellent.

This time they got the casting for Eddie bang on. Joe Allen – doubling as Dr Scott – was brilliant with his ‘couldn’t give a s**t’ attitude and a curled lip that would have given Billy Idol a run for his money!

This liberating show allows people to be themselves or, more to the point, become someone they always wanted to be but never dared to in the past! For two hours the world goes mad and, quite franklyfurter, it’s a right hoot and the ultimate tonic.

Go and blow away the Covid blues!

Rocky Horror Show
Alhambra, Bradford
Until Saturday 20th November