Even smiling makes my face ache!Dr Frank-N-Furter
Pieter Toerien Production’s Rocky Horror Show at the Montecasino Teatro is a blast from start to finish; a laugh-a-minute romp that brings joyous life to this beloved work from sparkling start to devastating finish.
Having made the move over from Cape Town, this version of Rocky has a gorgeous set, with an effective note from set designer Hugh Durrant included in the program, eloquently linking the themes and ideas channeled through the various set elements to the beautiful whole seen when the curtain is drawn back. The crowning piece is a massive film roll unspooling across the top of the stage, calling to mind both the origin of much of the show’s spoof material and also the iconic film version that has drawn many to the property over the last 40 years.
From the moment Marlee van der Merwe steps in front of the curtain as the Usherette, the cast’s complete enjoyment of the material is crystal clear. Having had a lengthy run in Cape Town, the performers’ familiarity with the script is on full display, and they treat it as an old friend, expertly and nimbly leaping from one perfectly delivered punchline to the next, toying with the audience with small breaks of the fourth wall and jabs with sarcastic undertones for our amusement.
In this regard, Kate Normington is, as always, spectacular. The role of the Narrator can easily become a dry festival of hammy acting and over-delivered jokes, but in Normington’s genius hands, she invites the usual audience interaction through intimate connection rather than overblown bravado. Her array of jabs for hecklers would put most comics to shame, and often got laughs as loud as the scripted jokes – which, it must be noted, most people watching know off-by-heart.
Watching Didintle Khunou have the time of her life as Janet was a pure joy. Her mastery of the text was evident from the opening scene, talking with an amusing affect that would border on ridiculous if her comic timing weren’t so precise. As we have come to expect, Khunou’s singing is always a highlight, and I found myself eagerly anticipating her next solo just so I could hear her voice again.
Truly, the overall outstanding nature of the cast means that there isn’t enough space to go into every performance in detail, as each deserves its own write up. Kristian Lavercombe’s Riff Raff is wonkily hilarious, and Lavercombe’s physical performance is one for the ages. Stefania du Toit’s Columbia tap danced her way straight into my heart, and Jarryd Nurden’s Rocky was a refreshing break from watching Peter Hinwood in the film, as Nurden can really sing – and his backflips were awesome, too! Marlee van der Merwe’s Magenta radiated the sexual energy that really makes Rocky Horror fly, and Anthony Downing’s Brad was endearingly dorkish enough to really make us feel his discomfort spiral into glorious acceptance. Zak Hendrikz turns in another performance of comical ingenuity, and does such an astute job of differentiating Eddie and Dr Scott that it’s difficult to tell that both are played by him. The Phantoms – Jessica Sole, Usisipho Nteyi, Sean John Louw, and Robin Timm – were creepy and fun, slithering around and slaying dances in equal measure.
But really, the shining star of this production is Craig Urbani’s Frank-N-Furter. Urbani is spectacularly sexy here, strutting around in high heels and shaking his butt in scandalous fashion. His purring accent and sensual moves really embody Frank’s voracious sexual appetite in the most perfect way, and his singing commands the space in a way that I’ve seldom heard at the Teatro. Urbani’s enormous shoulders also play into the strangely alluring nature of his Frank, as he comes across as even more paradoxical, with his imposing size belied by his flirtatious manner.
The fresh nature of this production includes some really stunning choreography from Nathan M Wright, with members of the company flik-flakking across the stage and dancing intricately choreographed numbers all through the show. I particularly loved Nick Riching’s lighting design, constantly bathing the set in colours that evoked psychedelic trips and disco parties. Sue Blane’s costume design tied the whole production together with both noticeable homage to prior versions and stunningly created pieces, while Christopher Luscombe’s direction served to amplify the space and bring out the funniest parts of the script completely effortlessly.
Bryan Schimmel’s band must also be singled out for praise, as should sound designer Gareth Owen. The band was tight, and the songs were absolutely rocking. In the performance I attended, several members of the audience were dancing to each song – which is testament to the quality of the band. The sounds otherwise were well coordinated and funny, and the levels were unusually sharp – I could hear every word that was spoken or sung extremely clearly.
The Rocky Horror Show at the Montecasino Teatro was a rollicking good time, and rest assured that even if you don’t like your men with too many muscles, this show was still most definitely made for you!
Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show is on at the Teatro at Montecasino from January 17 to March 1. Tickets are available from the box office and Computicket.