I vividly remember discovering Rocky Horror on the TV as a kid late at night. Although I was sleepy, I wanted to stay up to watch the movie musical finish because surely, at the end it would all make sense, right?
It never did. Ever since then, Rocky Horror has been the bane of my existence. That is, until the 2023 Australian musical theatre production which admittedly had me singing a different tune.
In a victory lap, the Rocky Horror Show, written and created by Richard O’Brien, is back at Melbourne’s Athenaeum Theatre and celebrating its 50th anniversary. The 2024 production of this beloved contemporary comedy, horror, sci-fi rock musical is better than ever, with Ellis Dolan returning in the dual role of Eddie and Dr Scott, Darcey Eagle as the quirky and saccharine Columbia, Stellar Perry as smouldering and stunning Magenta, Henry Rollo as vocally phenomenal and infectiously creepy Riff Raff, Dierdre Khoo as the at-first sweet and hesitant to the sexually confident Janet Weiss, and Jason Donovan in the titular role as Frank-N-Furter. New additions include Blake Bowden as Brad, Daniel Erbacher as Rocky, and Joel Creasey as The Narrator.
If you haven’t seen Rocky Horror before, don’t fret. Rocky Horror is a special musical where we follow squeaky clean couple Brad and Janet on an unforgettable and bizarre adventure, and you’re part of the fun! This is the only musical where the audience participation can elevate your experience. You’re more than welcome to dress up and join in the festivities for a fun night out full of cabaret style entertainment provided by a super talented cast and crew, up-close, personal, and entertaining from start to finish.
Rocky Horror is about everything and nothing at the same time and is pure joy to witness live on stage. It’s also a million times better than its movie adaptation (still the bane of my existence).
The entire returning cast have all grown into their roles but it is Jason Donovan that is by far the standout of this 2024 Melbourne production. Donovan oozes finesse, confidence, and conquers the stage night after night with his strong vocals and even stronger legs. Donovan is an undeniable masterclass of theatre, filled with passion and power for the role and his craft. He truly makes the character of Frank-N-Furter his own and does so effortlessly in a pair of high heels (putting me to shame since I can’t even walk in heels). Donovan dazzles especially in the sentimental number ‘Going Home’ and the crowd pleaser ‘Sweet Transvestite’. I must confess, I had to collect my jaw off the floor multiple times from being blown away by Jason Donovan’s hypnotic stage presence and powerful voice.
New to the production, Daniel Erbacher shines as the vocally and visually impressive new-born blonde, attractive, and yet child-like adorable himbo. Sweet and innocent yet sexually enticing in his own way, Erbacher is the perfect Rocky, has an incredible stage presence and is purely captivating in his own right (I promise, it’s not just the abs).
Stellar Perry is an unconventional rockstar. She dynamically demands your attention whenever she sets foot upon the stage, whether as The Usherette or as the naughtily majestic Magenta. Her vocal prowess also had me gobsmacked on multiple occasions throughout the show.
Henry Rollo is the scene-stealing Riff Raff who has mutant lungs (this is a compliment). Riff Raff feels more than just a role to Rollo. His portrayal not only allows him to have the most fun up on stage with his menacing bore-into-your-soul facial expressions, but his performance and phenomenal voice provides the utmost loving and respectful tribute to the original Richard O’Brien.
Rocky Horror newcomer Joel Creasey is no stranger to the stage and provides his own spin and personal touch to The Narrator. His humility and experiences as a stand-up comedian have already prepared Creasey for the die-hard Rocky Horror fans. Their heckles from the audience participation moments allows Creasey to fearless display his natural sass and a quick wit, showcasing that he is perfect for the role. One must wonder why it has taken so long for a comedian to be sought out to play The Narrator!?
Finally, Dierdre Khoo is fantastic as Janet Wiess and stuns when Janet transforms from a shy and innocent young lady into a sensual and emotionally defiant woman. I’ve seen Rocky Horror on stage more times than I can remember, yet nobody has made me believe, understand, and feel Janet’s evolution quite like Khoo does. Khoo is also the first person of colour actress in Australia to professionally play the role of Janet. Hopefully we see more of this in Australian theatre as roles should never be limited to nor determined by the colour of your skin.
My new favourite song ‘Super Heroes’, performed by Bowden and Khoo as Brad and Janet, is a bitter-sweet power ballad that is underrated among many, many ear-worms of this epic musical, and is definitely one to pay attention to. You can feel the heartache in the room during this number, in its lyrics, and when pair unite, evidently no longer the same as they were when their reluctant journey started.
Overall, there is a reason why The Rocky Horror Show has stood the test of time and is in its 50th year. Essentially a coming-of-age story, this cult classic tale bleeds themes of growth, life, death, lust, love, betrayal and forgiveness, things I never noticed in any of my past viewings of this musical. And even if it may not have any meaning, Rocky Horror is still a damn good time for new and seasoned theatre fans alike. This special production will have you wanting to do the ‘Time Warp’ again and again (I certainly will be), and you don’t even have to like the movie to enjoy the stage musical (you already know I don’t).
So, give yourself into absolute pleasure and visit Rocky Horror before it blasts off forever. Don’t dream it, see it.
Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show 50th anniversary production is now in Melbourne at the Athenaeum Theatre until March 23rd before it heads Sydney late March and plays at Theatre Royal until May 12th.
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Photography by Daniel Boud.