Since it first opened in London in June 1973 at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, Richard O’Brien’s ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ has become perhaps the world’s favourite Rock musical, having been performed worldwide for 45 years in more than 30 countries and translated into over 20 languages.
This critically-acclaimed new production, directed by Christopher Luscombe, features all of the famous musical numbers which have made ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ such a huge hit for over four decades, including ‘Sweet Transvestite’, ‘Science Fiction/Double Feature’, ‘Dammit Janet’ and, of course, the timeless floor-filler, ‘The Time-Warp’.
It can be seen at the Artscape Opera House from December 6 to January 12.
Peter Tromp caught up with two stars of the production, CRAIG URBANI and DIDINTLE KHUNOU, upon the eve of its grand opening.
Tell us about this production of ‘Rocky Horror’ and how it’s different (in scale?) to productions we have seen in the recent past in South Africa…
Didintle Khunou: This cast is a beautiful blend of new faces like myself and Jarryd Nurden, and established actors like Craig Urbani and Kate Normington, who’ve played various roles in past productions. Kristian Lavercombe (who holds the record of playing the role Riff Raff for the longest time) is also in the cast. It will feel familiar to audiences, but very different as we’ve made it our own. I think it’ll be exciting to see.
Craig Urbani: This production captures the essence of what was originally intended by Richard O’Brien. It tells the story and stays true to the characters. It doesn’t become an all out mindless romp where Frank ‘n’ Furter does a 10 minute stand routine whenever the mood takes him and keeps breaking out of character. The fun lies in serving the piece. This production does that. Fans of the movie will love this production. Scale wise it’s big and lavish but still maintains that intimate and uncomplicated set design.
What’s your first memory of seeing ‘The Rocky Horror Show’, whether on film, or on stage? What were your feelings and thoughts after having seen it?
Urbani: I saw the movie when I was very young and although I totally enjoyed it on some level, I had no idea what was going on. Loved the music obviously! Then I played Rocky in Colin Law’s superb production in 1992 and since then I have been in love with this character and the show. I have seen many productions around the world.
Khunou: Dare I say I’ve never seen Rocky Horror before? I only heard the songs from a CD we once had of the recordings of the songs in the musical. The music of the show is what I was exposed to and I remember learning singing along to them when I was younger.
What were rehearsals like, and how long did it take for you to feel that you were starting to gel as an ensemble?
Khunou: Rehearsals were great, because we managed to put this blockbuster of a musical on its feet in a couple of weeks, which is amazing to me. Thank the heavens for the exceptional guidance of our director Christopher Luscombe and choreographer Andrew Ahern. We’re also a cast of really talented and dedicated performers so it didn’t take long for us to build chemistry. We work very well together. I just know it’ll translate on stage.
Tell us about your character, and what you’ve tried to bring to the role to personalise it.
Urbani: I have the dream part in Frank ‘n’ Furter. He is unpredictable, exciting, effervescent, funny, evil, flamboyant, camp, butch, eccentric and alien. It’s so much fun to play and a role that I feel I have been rehearsing for in my head since I was 21. I am paying respect to Tim Curry’s portrayal, because of its brilliance, and trying to make it my own in parts without deviating too far from what the fans of the show will most likely expect to see.
Khunou: I play Janet Weiss, an American, squeaky clean college student who is engaged to Brad Majors. The story begins with the both of them coming from a wedding, Brad proposing to her and her saying yes. Shortly afterwards, they get stuck in a storm and they find refuge in Frank ‘n’ Furter’s castle. The rest is a wild journey of self discovery and sexual liberation for Janet. I’ll be bringing my own interpretation of Janet to the performance and injecting my own flavour. It’ll be fascinating for people to see how the character lives in my body.
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