Rocky Horror Show

The Rocky Horror Show 50th Anniversary: Why You Should See the Cult Classic on the Stage

Richard O’Brien’s legendary musical The Rocky Horror Show continues to delight audiences 50 years on from its conception. An immediate success on the London stage in 1973, the unique production now boasts the achievement of being the longest-running contemporary musical.

Rocky Horror Show: A Must-See for Fans of Musicals, Sci-Fi, and Horror

With an original score, lyrics and audience ‘partici…..pation’ guide, Rocky Horror is hailed as an adored cult classic. To date, it has been viewed by over 30 million theatregoers –a number I have recently had the privilege of joining. It is now my mission to convince YOU to find tickets to a performance at a venue in your vicinity! 

The story follows the strange adventure of Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, two newly engaged teenagers. Driving in a storm one night, they get a flat tire, and the couple are forced to walk to an old castle in search of a telephone. Here they meet Riffraff (the creepy, hunchback butler), his sister Magenta (the demented maid), and Columbia (an emphatic groupie). Yet no member of the ‘foreign’ company is more peculiar than Dr Frank-N-Furter (a pansexual transvestite and mad scientist). Trapped in the castle overnight, Brad and Janet are faced with challenges that spark a journey of sexual liberation and self-discovery. 

Clearly inspired by the influence of Hollywood’s early science fiction and horror B movies, O’Brien based Rocky Horror’s key plot points on recognisable classics, many of which are name-dropped in the musical’s opening number ‘Science-Fiction/Double Feature.’ Frank-N-Furter’s insatiable lust presents him as the archetypical Dracula character, whereas his creation of Rocky evidently borrows the mad scientist trope from Frankenstein.  

In 1975, an independent film adaptation of the musical was released under the aptly modified title The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Joining O’Brien and other members of the original stage cast, the film stars Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, and Barry Bostwick. The film became known as a ‘midnight movie,’ a term used to describe the late-night screenings of low-budget, off-beat pictures.

Rocky Horror Show

During these films, it was not uncommon for viewers to shout things at the screen to enhance their entertainment. Rocky Horror Show gained a reputation for being an easy target of parody at the cinemas, an amusing addition that grew into the audience participation the show famously encourages. Soon, audiences incorporated props, such as water pistols, a deck of cards, rubber gloves, and costumes into their interactive viewing experience, establishing traditions that continue in cinemas and theatres to this day. 

Rocky Horror Show: A Celebration of Self-Acceptance and Sexual Liberation

Humorously bizarre and flamboyant, Rocky Horror Show is an eccentric production that will not appeal to everyone’s taste. Above all, it celebrates queerness, exploring what it means to be different in a society that values conformity. The show creates a space for diverse people to come together in a safe and welcoming environment. Therefore, the show’s message is best appreciated by those who consider themselves misfits, anyone who has ever felt like an outsider or a freak. 

This is partly due to Rocky Horror’s progressive representation of LGBTQ+ identities. Due to censorship and prejudice, the portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters in the cinematic world remained sparse. Before Rocky Horror’s release popularised ‘queer camp,’ queer-coded characters were either disguised or negatively exhibited, implemented in comedy to be mocked, and almost always had tragic endings. Freeing homosexuality from the confines of subtext, several characters in the show are openly queer or questioning. 

Rocky Horror celebrates its 50th year on the stage with a unique anniversary production held worldwide as part of their sell-out tour. The renowned cast consisting of Stephen Webb, Haley Flaherty and Richard Meek are joined by Joe McFadden, TV personality and winner of Strictly Come Dancing in 2017. Praise for the unique production extends far and wide, with the Evening Standard stating it to be: “Still the sexiest and funniest show in town!” 

Growing up in Northern Ireland -a place that has long possessed less than progressive attitudes towards LGBTQ+ issues and women’s rights- I never imagined that one day I would see sexual liberation and gender exploration openly celebrated on stage. On the 11th of August, 2023, I was one of the lucky audience members to experience the show’s spectacular thrills at The Grand Opera House in Belfast. 

I can now personally confirm that Rocky Horror is not an ordinary musical but an exciting, interactive viewing experience. As I had hoped, many devoted fans chose to come to the theatre cosplaying as the iconic characters, ready to shadow the dialogue with humorous commentary and sing along with the cast.

Reduced to a state of constant laughter, it delighted me to see my favourite movie brought to life with such innovation and skill. Performing flawlessly, each member of the enthusiastic cast brought their own flare to the role, able to expertly play off the crowd’s engagement. The director, Christopher Luscombe, did the story justice, staying true to the show’s original message. 

After the performance I approached some other viewers to record some additional opinions: 

“This is my third time seeing Rocky live. I first saw it performed in the late seventies in England. It is still a fabulous show, slightly different every time!” -Kathleen McConnell.   

“It was class! I feel like The Rocky Horror Show has opened my eyes to a whole new world. It’s liberating to see actors that have so much confidence –I had a brief stage career myself, but I don’t think I’d be brave enough to parade around in a corset in front of so many people!” -Niall Sloan 

“[It was] really fun, camp and hilarious. We couldn’t stop laughing!” -Rachel Jobbs and Jacob Niederberger.