Review: The Rocky Horror Show at the Liverpool Empire

There are few surprises to be discovered in the Rocky Horror Show, unless you are one of the few who still falls into the ‘Rocky Horror Virgin’ category, as Richard O’Brien’s creation is now in its 40th year.

The current tour, labelled the ‘Party Production’, sees a host of new faces taking on the roles of the show’s notorious characters and, although the script and the soundtrack is essentially the same, there is definitely a freshness to the production.

Ben Forster, winner of ITV’s ‘Superstar’ programme, excels in his role as geeky Brad Majors; a complete contrast to his serious portrayal of Jesus in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage show. Forster clearly relishes the chance to ham up the role with just the right amount of nerdiness and a vast array of facial gestures delivered with perfect comic timing. While the role is perfect for showcasing his acting ability, his breathtaking solo rendition of “Once in a While” reduces the audience to silence; a rare commodity in a show renowned for audience participation and heckling throughout.

Co-star Roxanne Pallett, formerly of Emmerdale, delivers a solid performance alongside Forster as Janet Weiss, and is perfectly cast as the naive college student who is somewhat easily corrupted upon arrival at Dr. Frank ‘n’ Furter’s house. While she doesn’t quite command the stage in the same way as Forster, her vocals are excellent and she brings just the right blend of naivety and sauciness to the role as the show progresses.

Ben Forster and Roxanne Pallett as Brad and Janet.

Ben Forster and Roxanne Pallett as Brad and Janet.

Philip Franks, playing the role of narrator, is a delight. Coping admirably with the deluge of heckles raining down from all corners of the auditorium (some scripted, others not), his lines are delivered with just the right amount of feigned indignation and humour, and he enters fully into the spirit of the show during the finale, ditching his smoking jacket and stripping down to stockings and suspenders alongside his fellow cast members.

Philip Franks is superb as the narrator.

However, it is ‘Sweet Transvestite’, Dr Frank ‘n’ Furter, who ultimately steals the show. Oliver Thorton is no stranger to wearing skimpy clothes and high heels, following a stint in the role of Adam/ Felicia in ‘Priscilla’ in London’s West End. His portrayal of Frank is an exquisite blend of vulnerability and unashamed debauchery with just a hint of madness and the audience laps it up.

Oliver Thornton steals the show as Dr. Frank 'n' Furter.

Oliver Thornton steals the show as Dr. Frank ‘n’ Furter.

Dammit Janet, what a great show!

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