Interview: Stephen Webb
Interview: Stephen Webb
As The Rocky Horror Show heads to Wimbledon in November, we chat to the man behind the iconic Dr Frank’n’Furter – Stephen Webb.
Going on 50 years old, there are few roles in the musical theatre as iconic as Dr Frank’n’Furter, the main antagonist of The Rocky Horror Show. Originated by Tim Curry in 1973 – and later reprised by him the cult film adaptation – it is a staple of modern theatre: mad scientist and transvestite with an upper-class accent who is a catalyst for the show’s explorations of sexual fluidity, its biggest hits and its dramatic finale.
Now, The Rocky Horror Show is doing the time warp again towards Wimbledon with Stephen Webb playing the legendary part. “It’s such a landmark. I don’t think there’s another show like it,” he says. Stephen initially planned to audition as Brad, the show’s meek and somewhat boring protagonist but the producers wanted to see him as Frank. “So I put on tight jeans and a vest and a pair heels, and sung Sweet Transvestite. And they took me on!”
He has to put a full face of makeup on every single show which is something he’d never done prior. “They just gave me a big old bag and said, ‘well, there you go’.” It took him about 45 minutes then – now he can do it in 25. But he didn’t want to make himself a carbon copy of Tim Curry. “It’s a bit more glam rock. My eyebrows are a little bit like Dracula’s. I’ve also got this very bold blue eyeshadow and eyelashes. Quite striking!”
Putting on the heels for the first time was hard, too. He had around five weeks of rehearsals with the cast and he made sure to wear heels to all of them. The physical part of this role is overall very demanding, also in terms of having to put a corset on and change breathing patterns – crucial when singing. “I got used to it but I still have to be careful what I eat before the show because when you put that costume on, there is not an awful lot left to the imagination!”
Frank has been Stephen’s favourite role so far, and by far but it was Grease that sparked his life-long affair with musical theatre when he was a child. “It was at the Dominion Theatre and I just knew that’s what I wanted to do.” He left college at 18 and was lucky enough to land one of the principal roles in Saturday Night Fever. From then on, his career accelerated. He’s done a little bit of everything, from classics such as Kiss Me Kate, to modern gems like Titanic, to poppy hits including Footloose and Legally Blonde.
But there was no role like Frank. He still fondly remembers his first ever performance in Rocky Horror show: “They opened the double doors and I walked down, my lingerie on. The audience went crazy! And at that moment, I felt accepted.” Although he never met Tim Curry, he’d very much love to. “I’ve met Richard O’Brien. He told me everything about Frank’n’Furter. In some ways I think Frank is his alter ego. He gave me an awful lot of knowledge and also got me drunk as well. But I’d love to meet Tim Curry! I’m going to stick to this show and we’ll see.”
In his free time, Stephen enjoys riding a motorcycle. He has a customised Harley Davidson that looks like, in his own words, a Batmobile. His fiancée, actor Danielle Steers who currently stars in The Cher Show, also enjoys getting on the back. The two got engaged in February this year and are planning to get married in a couple of years. “I’m quite a homeboy. Whenever I finish my job on a Saturday night, even if I’m in Scotland, I’ll try to drive and spend a weekend with her. It can be tricky on tour. But we’ve been in the industry long enough to know it well. A lot of it has to do with trust. And we’re very good at that!” he says.
For The Rocky Horror Show newbies Stephen recommends coming with an open mind. “The audience is part of the show. Come, dress up and have a real good party with us.”
New Wimbledon Theatre, 21 to 26 November