Stephen Webb, a professional actor of twenty years, is pulling on the fishnets and dusting off his high heels as he is portraying the iconic and beloved character of Dr. Frank’N’Furter in the Rocky Horror Show during its UK stage tour.
Many of you who are already familiar with the b-movie inspired kooky madness and compelling camp nature of the Rocky Horror Show, a story so many have deemed a cult-classic, but to explain it in his own words, I asked Stephen what he thought of his role…
“Dr. Frank’N’Furter is kind of a take on Dr. Frankenstein, but instead of making a monster, he’s created a man that is blonde haired, blue eyes, muscly, and got a tan! And he meets the clean-cut and naïve Brad and Janet, who get stranded in the middle of the woods and come across this creepy mansion. They end up getting invited into the house and we begin converting them and exploring their sexual horizons, only to find out we’re actually all aliens from a planet called Transylvania. Yeah, it’s very psychedelic! But it’s very much about accepting. When the film came out, it was very taboo. But a lot of people saw something in it.”
Given that it is such an iconic character and treasured film, I had to ask if there was any pressure in making the role his own, and he admits that when he first landed the role there were nerves, but the director reassured Stephen that they wanted him to do his own version.
“I put a different twist on it. I suppose I’m a little bit hunkier and a bit broader with it. The director said if I tried to copy what Tim did, people will be judging me; don’t get me wrong, I do have little nods to Tim because he is so iconic, but I try and keep it to myself and do my own version. This show for me has been a big eye-opener, and playing Frank initially really put me out my comfort zone and allowed me to embrace so many things. I first did its back in 2019, and coming back into it again this year was a dream come true.”
Similarly, the show itself is particularly important to the LGBTQ+ community who identify with the characters, which Stephen thinks is great! He adds, “This show is so important because it takes on the boundaries of the taboo. For the next two hours, no one has any inhibitions. It allows people to be whoever they want to be, dress however they feel, put a load of makeup on, be accepted, shout out and have a real good time. That’s what I love about it. And I think Richard O’Brien at the time didn’t realize how much of a phenomenon his show was going to be, and it’s still current to this day, if not even more so.”
I couldn’t help but enquire about the make-up and heels, for it is a rather dramatic transformation into the character of Dr Frank’N’Furter…
Stephen does have a team to help with wigs and costume (including some semi-permanent tattoos) but he admits, “I had never put makeup on before this show and when I first got given the bag with all the makeup in, they said ‘there you go!’, so I said ‘hang on a second, I thought I was going to get someone to help me out!’ but they went ‘No, you’re supposed to be a man putting on his own makeup.’ It’s not supposed to look glamorous, it’s supposed to be striking and as if he’s taken his mom’s purse and tried to put makeup on. Even with my costume, everything’s supposed to be a bit disjointed and a bit rough around the edges.”
As for the heels, Stephen claims to be a natural! The shoes are open-toe, so he did cut his toes in the first four weeks and had to put surgical spirit on them to try and heal them up, but after the initial adjustment, Stephen claims he found them quite easy to be in.
He added, “I must admit I’ve got huge admiration for women that have to wear them all the time because they do hurt after a while, especially if you’ve been standing around for two hours in them; but I absolutely love them. It completely changes your posture and your legs look fabulous!”
Another thing the stage show is famed for is its audience participation. The beauty of the newfound younger audiences is that they’re adding new shout-outs. Stephen explains, “The majority of the cast has to stick to the script, but the narrator and myself are allowed to hear the shout-outs, so sometimes I’m allowed to react to them, but there are times they catch me off-guard and I have lost it. I’d love to tell you the shout-outs but I’ll definitely get told off for swearing!”
At the moment, the show is in London at the Peacock Theatre for a limited run, before heading over to Norwich to continue the tour.
Stephen admits he’s very excited to be back in Norwich, “It’s never the same, whenever we go to a new venue, and I can’t wait to be there [in Norwich]. The last time I was there was a good four years ago, and I had a lovely time, I absolutely love the city.”
Prior to the move to Norwich though, the show is hosting a very exciting event. While in London, just before Halloween, they’re performing Rocky Horror live to over 500 cinemas all over the UK and Europe on the 28th October so people that couldn’t or can’t come to see the show in person can still watch it live and even dress up if they’d like!
Stephen says, “I’m excited and I’m nervous but I have to just think of it like I’m performing for a live crowd as with every other day. I think it’s really good idea considering this show became iconic because of the film. To actually go to a cinema and watch it live will be a good Halloween treat.”
Finally, I asked: if you could play any other character in Rocky Horror for night, who would it be and why? He replied, “I’d like to play Brad because I like his transition from being very straight and clean cut, to when he puts on a corset, suspenders, and tights. He sings a line that goes quite rocky and sexy, and I just like the transformation. Also, the floor show is my favourite song in the show!”
Thank you so much for your time Stephen. It’s been lovely chatting to you, and we can’t wait to see the show next week in Norwich!
Teaser of the cinema release from the current tour.
Tickets for the cinema screening are on sale now at rockyhorrorincinemas.com.
The show will also be visiting Peterborough and Southend in 2022, so check www.rockyhorror.co.uk/tour for further tour dates and information.