IT was fishnets galore outside the Empire as Rocky Horror Show fans gathered for the opening night on Wearside of this 40th anniversary tour.
Braving the freezing weather in an array of corsets and suspenders, and with cross-dressing much in evidence, the audience showed that Richard O’Brien’s rock-horror extravaganza remains as popular as ever.
The story of an innocent couple stumbling upon a (literally) out-of-this-world party held by transvestite alien Dr Frank ‘n’ Furter is cranked-up in every way in this new production.
Sunderland’s Ben Forster returns from touring in Jesus Christ Superstar to play the gawky, all-American nerd Brad Majors, blowing everyone away with his solo, Once in a While.
Former Emmerdale star Roxanne Pallet, as Brad’s squeaky clean fiancée Janet, impressed as the corruptible heroine.
A surprise was in store for X Factor fans as the usually-suited crooner Rhydian Roberts strutted across the stage in only a pair of leopard-print Speedos.
Though his singing was, as always, impeccable, the audience was too distracted by his twitching pecs to notice.
Easily the star of the show was Oliver Thornton as the Sweet Transvestite himself. Taking on the role immortalised by Tim Curry, Thornton proved he had both the vocal chords and the charisma for the stiletto-swaggering icon.
He also looked very good in a corset.
Unfortunately for diehard fans, the Empire banned the throwing of any condiments and the squirt guns usually employed by Rocky Horror audiences.
However, the audience’s characteristic catcalls were shouted at every opportunity, and it was a joy to see the entire theatre erupt for the encore of Time Warp.
The defining aspect of The Rocky Horror Show is that it feeds off its audience.
The best way to enjoy it is to get stuck in, dance, heckle and perhaps even fish out the nets.