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REVIEW: The Rocky Horror Show at Sunderland Empire


The Rocky Horror Show

Sunderland Empire

Until Saturday 13 January 2024


2024 begins with a wonderful light hearted comedy musical that is perfect to overcome the January blues. Rocky Horror is back in Wearside for one week only.

Holby City & Strictly winnerJoe McFadden has landed in Sunderland in the challenging role of the Narrator in one of the most interactive shows outside of traditional pantomime. Challenging? As anyone familiar with the show will know - the audience will react regardless of any invitation to do so. Joe was fantastic at breaking the fourth wall and delivering his one liners. In fairness, the Monday night audience played their part with their well timed quips.

This show enters its 51st year of packing theatres with some of the most loyal fans you will come across. They dress up. They know each line and they arrive wanting to be entertained. It is up there with Blood Brothers as a show in which the regulars will discuss the merits of the line ups. I know last time I reviewed the show I had private messages from those who didn’t think that particular line up was as good as others they had seen.

Richard O’Brien’s musical plays homage to the B movie. Not the movie that you paid to see but the one they showed before the main event. I guess this concept might seem strange to anyone under 50 as the B movie stopped at my local cinemas in the 80s - I guess it was replaced by the concept of tv movies and straight to video films. These films were low budget and well meaning affairs. Sometimes they were more about filling locally produced film quotas. In 2024 you will see a number of examples on Talking Pictures tv. O’Brien has created something in which his love of the genre oozes from the script.

A car, driven by a young couple, has a breakdown. Richard Meek returns as Brad and he is joined by Haley Flaherty as Janet. Brad and Janet, in a world before mobile phones, decides to go to a nearby house in order to ask to use the phone and call for help. Alas they pick the house of Frank N Furter, performed by Stephen Webb, which is a bizarre set up to stay the least. They are welcomed in but events take a turn for the bizarre as they meet the inhabitants.

This show is adult fun. I bought a ticket for my 20 year old son so he could see it for the first time. Now what age you could take kids is down to parents, But it is not a “family” show for young children. He loved it and was on his feet for the mix of songs at the end.

The show is a great ensemble piece with no weak links, including Kristian Lavercombe as Riff Raff - an actor who has appeared in over 2000 performances of Rocky Horror, Darcy Finden as Columbia and Suzie McAdam as Magenta (and as the Usherette, of course).  It is supported by a live band perched above the performance area. 

The bizarre thing is that even though I have seen it before, many times, I cannot wait to see it again. Great fun.

Review: Stephen Oliver


The Rocky Horror Show will astound Sunderland audiences from Monday 8 – Saturday 13 January 2024. Tickets available online now at *

*A £3.65 transaction fee applies to online bookings.

On The Web :


Twitter: @rockyhorroruk

Instagram: @rockyhorrorofficial

Facebook: /rockyhorrorshow

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