THE heavens opened on the night Richard O’Brien’s quirky little late-evening show was first performed, in a tiny 60-seat theatre upstairs at the Royal Court in London.

It was June, 1973. A balmy summer day had turned into a spectacular thunder storm, with flashes of lightning and torrential rain. It was an appropriate setting for O’Brien’s weird and witty homage to 1950s sci-fi/horror B-movies.

Nobody had any expectations, least of all the show’s creator. “I thought we’d have our fun and move on,” said Richard O’Brien. “None of us realised that show was going to touch such a nerve.”

Soon The Rocky Horror Show was the hottest ticket in town, with the likes of David Bowie coming along to check it out, and it shifted to bigger venues.

It became a cult hit, but later a Broadway flop, and when the film version failed to set the box office alight, it seemed the curtain had fallen on the whole shebang.

But the movie lived on, thanks to American university campus screenings, with audiences dressing as characters and singing along. It was an extraordinary cultural phenomenon that led to a theatre revival - and half a century on, The Rocky Horror Show is one of the world’s most successful musicals. It has been performed in more than 30 countries, translated into more than 20 languages.

This week the 50th anniversary tour of the hit show is at Bradford’s Alhambra theatre, where audiences have been digging the Rocky Horror vibe for decades.

It is no longer allowed for audiences to squirt water and chuck rice, toast and KitKats at the stage, as was the tradition in the show’s early years, but the fans’ costumes are still very much part of the Rocky Horror experience.

Arriving at the Alhambra on Monday evening were fans in wigs, lab coats, fishnets, basques and feather boas. Some were diehard devotees - “I’ve been following it round since I was 17. I’m a granny now!” beamed Maggie Drake, who’d travelled over from Harrogate, dressed in a sparkly gold jacked and top hat.

And some were the new generation of fans embracing the show’s inclusive “be who you want to be” ethos.

With gender, identity, sexuality and freedom of expression at its heart, Rocky Horror is a musical for our times.

“I watched the film when I was a kid and didn’t really get it. Then I went to see it on stage and it all fell into place,” said Kyle Walsh of Bingley, rocking the Frank N Further stockings and basque. “It’s about expressing yourself and believing in yourself. I love the songs too - my favourite is Over at the Frankenstein Place.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Stephen Webb as Frank and Darcy Finden as Columbia Stephen Webb as Frank and Darcy Finden as Columbia (Image: Manuel Harlan)

The Rocky Horror Show is an affectionate spoof of Fifties B-movies - “Science fiction double feature, Doctor X will build a creature” sings the usherette at the start, as all-American college kids Brad and Janet arrive at a spooky castle on a stormy night when their car breaks down.

This is the lair of Dr Frank N Furter - cross-dressing scientist and chainsaw-wielding hedonist - and Brad and Janet are in for a night to remember.

This is a cracking production that delighted Monday’s opening night audience. A terrific high energy cast is headed by the awesome Stephen Webb as Frank; a sexy, charismatic, outrageous, crazy scene-stealer and, in the end, endearingly moving.

The excellent Jackie Clune got the tone just right as the Narrator, with a cheeky smirk and some quick-witted responses to the obligatory audience heckles.

The audience is a character in itself in this show, and I hope they get more vocal as the week goes on. It’s okay to shout “Boring!” when the Narrator comes on...

Read our interview with Jackie Clune here:

Kristian Lavercombe was pretty much perfect as Frank’s creepy butler, Riff Raff. Scurrying across the stage, with an enigmatic smile, he’s a delightfully eccentric creature. His final incarnation was a sight to behold.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Perfect: Kristian Lavercombe as Riff RaffPerfect: Kristian Lavercombe as Riff Raff (Image: Manuel Harlan)

Richard Meek and Haley Flaherty were a great comic pairing as nerdy sweethearts Brad and Janet, Darcy Finden was a fabulously kooky Columbia and Suzie McAdam was deliciously bonkers as Transylvanian housemaid Magenta.

Great performances too from Joe Allen, as both Eddie and Dr Scott, and Ben Westhead as muscle man play-thing, Rocky.

This show probably wouldn’t have stuck around for 50 years without its impressive score. Every number is a banger, from high energy crowd-pleasers like Hot Patootie (Bless My Soul), Dammit Janet, Sweet Transvestite and the mighty Time Warp to the rousing ballads like Over at the Frankenstein Place and the Don’t Dream It Be It fanfare.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Richard Meek and Haley Flaherty as college sweethearts Brad and Janet Richard Meek and Haley Flaherty as college sweethearts Brad and Janet (Image: Manuel Harlan)

Set against Hugh Durrant’s wonderful Gothic set, this is a hugely entertaining show - as fabulous, bonkers and gloriously inclusive as it ever was.

* The Rocky Horror Show is at the Alhambra until Saturday.

* Are you dressing up in costume for The Rocky Horror Show at the Alhambra this week? Share your photos with us by emailing