“MICHAEL Rennie was ill the day the Earth stood still...” and had been dead two years when that lyric opened the first ever performance of The Rocky Horror Show back in 1973.
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Some 43 years on, Richard O’Brien’s cult masterpiece can still have audiences collectively leaping to their feet, keen to drive themselves insane with the ‘pelvic thrust’ that de rigueur if they are to join in with the show-stopping Time Warp.
The shout-outs are still there too, maybe not as many as before, but all deftly parried by Norman Pace, a charming, engaging storyteller with a fresh line in put-downs as he regales the ‘Virgins’ in the audience with the tale of Brad and Janet.
A young all-American couple, the lovers find themselves corrupted by the alien transvestite scientist Dr Frank n Furter, after their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, just as a storm breaks. Along the way they meet a menagerie of strange creatures.
In the current touring production at the Playhouse this week, Kristian Lavercombe’s insect-like Riff Raff is arguably second to none, except perhaps O’Brien’s original, and Dominic Andersen is by far the strongest Rocky since David Ian made part his own back in the 80s.
Sophie Linder-Lee’s effervescent Columbia, meanwhile, is a multi-layered scene-stealer, while Ben Freeman and Diana Vickers, as Brad and Janet, are nicely matched.
However, it’s Liam Tamne’s debut as the evil cross-dressing scientist that everyone has come to see, and The Voice contender doesn’t disappoint. Tamne is a charismatic Sweet Transvestite who in time will grow to be one of The Rocky Horror Show’s great Frank n Furters.
Played, fittingly, at an almost obscene pace, this production proves a pulsing diversion, just don’t expect too much attention to be played to the truly dark sub text that lies at the heart of the tale.
Run ends Saturday