Fun, frolics, frocks and frivolity are very much on the menu as The Rocky Horror Show makes it’s tour-stop at Cardiff’s New Theatre this week.
Directed by Christopher Luscombe, the production features timeless classics, Sweet Transvestite, Damn it Janet, and Time Warp, and follows the story of two squeaky clean college kids, Brad (Ore Oduba ) and his fiancée Janet (Haley Flaherty) as they encounter the charismatic Dr Frank-n-Furter (Stephen Webb).
With over four decades of stage success and a worldwide fan-following, Richard O’Brien’s legendary rock ‘n’ roll musical is showing no signs of slowing down. Here, Andy Howells chats with the latest stage incumbent of Dr Frank-n-Furter, Stephen Webb about all things Rocky Horror!
The Rocky Horror Show is coming to Cardiff, and you are playing Dr Frank-n-Furter!
I am and I cannot wait! I haven’t been to Cardiff for at least five years. I’ve never done the New Theatre before, always the Wales Millennium Centre. I know the New Theatre is a smaller but intimate venue, which Rocky Horror loves!
What sort of roles have you done on your journey to Frank-n-Furter?
I’ve always played a bad boy. I was in the original tour cast of Jersey Boys, then Legally Blonde. Before Rocky Horror, I was doing a show called Titanic, which was completely different to what I’m doing now!
When I got the call for the casting for Frank, I thought there’s no way I’m ever going to get this, and I went in there, put some heels and tight jeans on along with a little vest underneath.
I thought if I’m going to sing Sweet Transvestite, I’ve got to do the whole thing literally, I can’t just stand there. So, I took my clothes off and got on with the audition panel and I was like flirting with the director and it seemed to do the trick and I got the part from doing that. So, I’m doing something right!
Were you familiar with the Rocky Horror Show before being cast as Frank?
I’d watched the film many moons ago, so I knew what Rocky Horror was about. I never saw it live, but I watched a live recording, so when it came to it, I had an idea about how I wanted to portray Frank.
The director, Chris Luscombe said, “We hired you to do your version. We don’t want a Tim Curry version, because everyone’s just going to compare you to him.” I do little nods to Tim because he’s so iconic in the part. However, I’ve done my own version, I’m playing him a lot more butch, but it seems to work. People seem to be enjoying what I’m doing!
How long have you been in the role?
Well I did the role in 2019 and then they phoned me up during lockdown and asked if I’d do it again. Hands down! Of course, I’ll come! I’ve never done a show where its different every night, obviously for people who don’t know the show people dress up and they are part of it! There is a script for all the audience to shout out. I’d love to tell you about the shout outs, but I’d get told off because they’re rude!
Every night it is something different. I think that’s why audiences love it. You will either get a rowdy crowd or you’ll get a crowd that will do some shout-outs that they’ve never heard before.
For the next two hours people can dress up as their favourite character, have a few drinks and a real good laugh. It’s true that this show can be extremely sexy and raunchy. It’s all suggestive, but extremely funny. There’s not many shows out there that leave you crying with laughter because of what they (the audience) have said – not what we (the cast) have said! We’ve reacted back at them! It’s cracking, a wacky sexy show that everyone loves!
For the next two hours there’s no inhibitions, people can go in and meet up with friends and that’s what theatre should be like at times.
So, Rocky Horror is a very communal type of show, because the audience is very much part of it?
It is and it really wouldn’t be the same without them. Even with people dressing up as their favourite character. Some look absolutely amazing, they look better than me! I’m not just talking about their make-up, they’ve made their costumes! I’m always overwhelmed when I come outside the stage door and see what they’re wearing!
A lot of people don’t know who I am, because on stage I’m a lot taller, have big hair and I’ve got make-up on. So, when I walk past the crowd it’s amazing because some of these people have been watching it for 20, 30, or 40 years!
How long does it take you to get made up into Frank-n-Furter?
Now it only takes me about 25 minutes. It used to take about 45 minutes. When I first started, I thought I was going to get a makeup artist who’d show me how it’s done.
He went, “No, you’re not a drag queen, you’re a transvestite! There is a difference. It’s a man putting on his own makeup. I see it like he’s nicked his mum’s purse, my make up is not striking, its not supposed to be. Even his corset and tights have got holes. It’s like he’s taken tights from a clothes rack, split them in half and tried to sew them on so it looks like a corset. It’s supposed to have that rough and ready type of look to it, that’s what I love about it.
Has there been a stand-out moment for you while playing Frank-n-Furter?
Oh there’s been many! The first time I ever did it, I come onto the show about 20 minutes in. I’m behind the doors and there’s all the smoke and lights. They open the doors and I’m wearing a cloak, singing Sweet Transvestite, and then I walk down to the front of the stage, I reveal myself and you can hear the crowd go berserk for it. I felt like Mick Jagger, this is amazing! There are some shout outs, we rehearse them, but there are some new ones. There’s always one where they say “I see you shiver with anticip..” Someone yells “Say it!” and then someone shouts “Constipation!” I always try and catch it out!
How long will you be carrying on with the tour?
Now, I’m doing it to the beginning of July and then it’s got the possibility to be back out on the road towards the end of next year. Fingers crossed, I’ll still be doing it, I absolutely love it, so I don’t see why not!
For this company we’ve got Ore Oduba as Brad. He won Strictly Come Dancing and everyone thinks he’s a dancer, but boy he can sing and he’s a good actor as well!
We’ve got Haley Flaherty playing Janet who is a veteran to the show and a real class act. Kristian Lavercombe playing Riff Raff has done the show over 2000 times and been in it for over 10 years.
Philip Franks is the narrator, so he’s allowed to shout back at the crowd. I’ve never met a man who has his own comebacks, and he changes it every day! So, you don’t know what you’re going to get out of him!
Obviously Frank-n-Furter is an iconic stage role, are there any others on your bucket list you’d like to play?
I had a group of them, and I’ve done them, but there’s still one, which is the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera. It’s one I’ve always wanted to do, but never had the opportunity.
As roles go – Frank is up there and IS the highlight of my career. There’s not another part like it and he’s quite a complex character. There’s so much you can do with the part, and they’ve allowed me to do my own take on it. Its great and its very rewarding!
- The Rocky Horror Show runs at Cardiff’s New Theatre from Mon 7 – Sat 12 February 2022. For booking details visit the New Theatre Website
- Age guidance is 14+