We took the underground to Sloane Square and then walked south on Kings Road for a dozen or more blocks to Kings Road Theatre, a converted cinema house. It was a musical, outrageous, funny, sexually ambiguous, very English. It borrowed cross-dressing from the pantos, although the pantos never saw this kind of cross-dressing. From the English Music Hall it borrowed audience response and participation and many double entendres, mostly sexual in nature flaunting the sexual revolution of the 1960s. It was high camp. As with Hair it refused to stay on stage, playing throughout the house, up and down the aisles, crawling over and through the audience. The audience loved it. Altogether it was to run over seven years in London.
The Rocky Horror Show is by Richard O’Brien, music, lyrics and book. O’Brien was an actor who had been the London productions of Hair and briefly in Jesus Christ Superstar directed by Jim Sharman. O’Brien showed his unfinished script to Sharman who decided that it should be produced in the sixty-seat Upstairs Theatre at the Royal Count Theatre. In 1973 when it finished its sold-out run at the Royal Court, it moved first to Chelsea Classic Cinema, then to the Kings Road Theatre with 500 seats.
O’Brien loved the sci fi/horror flicks of the 1930s, 40s, 50s. Over one winter while out of work he composed the musical, both as a homage and parody of those films. He set it in the London glam rock period of the 1960s-70s. The music was contemporary glam rock. Jonathan King, a record producer, saw the second performance and immediately secured the recording rights, rushed the cast into the studio and quickly released the record to become a hit across the UK.
Lou Adler, an American record producer, saw a performance in the winter of 1973 and immediately secured the American producing rights. He opened the first American production in 1974 in Los Angeles where it ran for nine months. He closed it to open the Broadway production but allowed the cast to return to England for the filming of the show in fall 1974.
Actor Tim Curry knew O’Brien as they had been in the London production Hair. Curry ran into O’Brien one day he told him that his musical was being produced the Royal Court and that he should contact Sharman about a role. He was cast as Dr. Frank N. Furter. He remained in the London Production until he came to Los Angeles to be in that production. He and many others of the London cast were in the film but Adler insisted that Americans Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick play the two innocents.
In 1975 just before the film was released the Broadway production opened at the Belasco Theatre with Tim Curry as the lead. It lasted for three previews and 45 performances. For the mid-1970s The Rocky Horror Show was not an uptown Broadway show, even if at a theatre on the wrong side of the tracks, i.e., east of Broadway; just as it was not a London West End show. The audience for The Rocky Horror Show was downtown. For the downtown people this was still the era of never trust anyone over 30 and anything above 14th Street.
Later that fall the movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show opened. At the Waverly Theatre on 6th Avenue below 14th Street, it made history. (This is the Waverly Theatre referred to in Hair in the song “Frank Mills.”) The movie house stayed crowded, and a new tradition was created. At the weekend midnight showings the crowd assembled in appropriate costumes and joined in singing all the songs along with the movie and mimicking the favorite lines. From Greenwich Village the event spread across America. From the momentum of the film’s popularity theatre productions also spread across the country. The show became a cultural phenomenon
This is SCT’s third production of The Rocky Horror Show. The first in 2001 had Andrew Call as Rocky. Since moving to New York, Call has now appeared in more than a half dozen Broadway productions with the most recent being Groundhog Day: the Musical. The second production of TRHS was in 2010. My guess is the fourth should appear about 2025.