Review: The Rocky Horror Show at Sunderland Empire 2024

Review: The Rocky Horror Show at Sunderland Empire 2024

The Rocky Horror Show at Sunderland Empire, an outrageously enjoyable show for reasons I still can’t fathom. Weird and wonderful for many reasons! A soundtrack that will have you dancing and performances that’ll have you laughing along. 

This is the second time I’ve seen this show now and still genuinely think this is one of the weirdest musicals I’ve seen. I have come out both times thinking what have I just watched, and yet revel in its brilliance. This show was ahead of its time, and continues to impress new audiences as well as old as we celebrate it over 50 years on.

2023 saw Richard O’Brien’s legendary rock ‘n’ roll musical celebrate its 50th Anniversary, marking half a century of thrilling entertainment.

The Rocky Horror Show is the story of two squeaky clean college kids – Brad and his fiancée Janet. When by a twist of fate, their car breaks down outside a creepy mansion whilst on their way to visit their former college professor, they meet the charismatic Dr Frank’n’Furter. It is an adventure they’ll never forget, filled with fun, frolics, frocks, and frivolity

The show comes with a cult following and that comes in multiple forms, from people dressing up as characters to the audience shouting out to the cast with lines or responses to the script as the narrator and cast perform. This isn’t heckling, and indeed with a quick witted Narrator is actually almost expected and played upon. 

We saw Joe McFadden in the role of the narrator, and with a cheeky smile, Scottish accent and quick witted responses delivers the story in an enjoyable manner and one that has the audience laughing along with some Sunderland themed quips added in.

This particular tour has some actors more than familiar with the roles they were filling having continuously or having previously played them.

I previously saw Ore Oduba as Brad but had heard good things about Richard Meek and he didn’t disappoint, along with Hayley Flaherty as Janet they were brilliantly geeky and played off each other well. Kristian Lavercombe as Riff-Raff was also pleasurable and a joy to watch. 

Ben Westhead is our muscle ripped creation Rocky and well…. I’ll have what he’s having to get a body like that! Once you get past the muscles, you see he has a canny voice to go with it.

Darcy Finden as Columbia and Suzie McAdam as Magenta are also as enjoyable and equally impressive in their roles also.

Stephen Webb is the standout as he was previously when I saw the show, and if ever there was an actor meant for a role then Webb has found it. While his character longs for love (in an attractive form) he also brings in sexuality and hedonism. 

Staging is as good as always. Moving from the outside road and van, to the front hallway, bedrooms and elsewhere. Colourful displays and backdrops set the scene too. 

As mentioned this show has been going for over 50 years and needs no review in all honesty. It has proven to last the decades and still finds an audience that has never seen it before which it enthrals, and entertains over and over the ones that are already hooked on Richard O’Briens world of Rocky Horror.

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

*A £3.65 transaction fee applies to online bookings. 

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