While working together at the Royal Court's Theatre Upstairs on a production of Sam Shepard's The Unseen Hand, O'Brien played Sharman some of the songs he had written and they began to flesh out the concept for the show. Sharman brought in fellow Australians Nell Campbell, a.k.a. 'Little Nell,' and longtime production designer Brian Thomson, who had designed his productions of Hair and Superstar. Costume designer Sue Blane and musical director Richard Hartley rounded out the original creative team.
After two previews, The Rocky Horror Show premiered at the 63-seat Theatre Upstairs on 19 June 1973 and ran until 20 July 1973. The theatre was run by the Royal Court as a project space for new work. Veteran stage producer Michael White produced the play. The production was a critical and commercial success. Record producer Jonathan King saw it on the second night and signed the cast to make the Original Soundtrack Album over a long weekend which was rushed out on his UK Records label. King was heavily involved in the initial promotion for the show as well as being the other 20% backer of it financially with White. The production transferred to the Classic Cinema on Kings Road from 14 August 1973 to 20 October 1973, a run-down 270-seat venue scheduled for demolition. Transferring again to the Kings Road Theatre, a 350-seat converted cinema, the production ran from 3 November 1973 through 31 March 1979 with many cast changes, until plans for the theatre's demolition prompted another move. The Rocky Horror Show transferred to the 820-seat Comedy Theatre on Panton Street in the West End, the legitimate London theatre district, running from 6 April 1979 until 13 September 1980, closing the play's initial run of 2,960 performances. After occasional productions in the early eighties, the play was revived for the Theatre Royal Hanley tour in 1984, and is still performed regularly in the UK.
After attending the wedding of Betty Munroe and Ralph Hapshatt, Brad Majors confesses his love to Janet Weiss ("Dammit, Janet!") and the two become engaged. The narrator appears to explain that Brad and Janet are leaving Denton to visit Dr. Everett Scott, their former science tutor, while driving into a rainstorm. During the trip their car has a flat tire, and they are forced to walk through the rain to seek a telephone in an old castle ("Over at the Frankenstein Place").
As Brad and Janet arrive, they are greeted by Riff Raff, the hunchbacked handyman, who leaves to fetch his master. The narrator explains that Brad and Janet are feeling "apprehensive and uneasy," but must accept any help they are offered. While they dry off, Frank-n-Furter, a bisexual mad scientist, arrives. He introduces himself as "a Sweet Transvestite from Transsexual Transylvania" and invites Brad and Janet to his laboratory ("Sweet Transvestite"). Magenta, the maid and Riff Raff's sister, and Columbia, Frank-n-Furter's "groupie," help Riff Raff strip Brad and Janet to their underwear. They speak briefly of an unlucky delivery boy named Eddie before performing the show's big dance number "Time Warp"..
Brad and Janet enter the laboratory, where Frank-n-Furter gives them lab coats to wear. Frank-n-Furter announces that he has discovered the secret to life itself. He unveils his creation, a blonde, well-built man named Rocky Horror, who is brought to life. As his bandages are removed, Rocky Horror worries about his predicament ("The Sword of Damocles"). Frank-n-Furter admires Rocky's physique by singing a tribute to muscle builders ("I Can Make You a Man"). A Coca-Cola freezer in the laboratory opens to reveal Eddie, a biker covered in surgical scars, who performs "Hot Patootie - Bless My Soul" for the group before being sent back into the freezer by Frank-n-Furter. Frank tells Rocky that he prefers him to Eddie ("I Can Make You a Man (Reprise)"). Brad and Janet are then ushered to separate bedrooms for the night.Act II The narrator explains that Brad and Janet may not be quite safe. Janet enjoys Brad's advances in her darkened bedroom before realizing that Frank-n-Furter has tricked her. Frank-n-Furter convinces Janet that pleasure is no crime, and when she asks him to promise not to tell Brad, they resume their lovemaking. The scene changes to Brad's darkened bedroom, where Brad makes love to Janet before discovering that Frank-n-Furter has tricked him. Frank-n-Furter promises not to tell Janet, but as they resume, Riff Raff interrupts on the TV monitor with a message that Rocky Horror has escaped. Janet searches for Brad in the laboratory, and discovers Rocky Horror hiding there. Checking the TV monitor, Janet finds Brad in bed with Frank-n-Furter, and seduces Rocky Horror ("Touch-a-Touch-a-Touch-a-Touch Me"). While searching the TV monitor for Rocky, the rest of the group discovers that Janet is sleeping with him, and Brad becomes hurt and angry ("Once in a While"). Riff Raff then notifies Frank-n-Furter there is another visitor entering the castle: Dr. Everett Scott, the wheelchair-bound science tutor Brad and Janet intended to visit.
Dr. Scott is pushed into the laboratory by Columbia, and Frank-n-Furter accuses him and Brad of trying to investigate his castle. Dr. Scott assures him he has come in search of Eddie, his nephew. Frank-n-Furter shows the "defrosted" Eddie in a plastic bag and restrains Brad, Janet, and Dr. Scott electronically to the floor when Brad attacks. Dr. Scott explains the potential uses of Frank-n-Furter's sonic transducer, and Frank-n-Furter scolds Janet for sleeping with his creation ("Wise Up Janet Weiss"). The three visitors and Columbia are then drugged by Riff Raff, as is Magenta, who recovers to ask when they will return to Transylvania. Frank-n-Furter rebuffs her and insists on performing a "floor show" with his captive guests.
Columbia, Rocky, Brad and Janet each perform a segment of "Rose Tint My World" for Frank-n-Furter's floor show, dressed in revealing underwear and fishnets. Frank-n-Furter performs "Don't Dream It - Be It" with the help of the other four, enticing them all to give themselves to "absolute pleasure." The cast of the floor show then performs "Wild and Untamed Thing," when they are interrupted by Riff Raff and Magenta, clad in space suits. Riff Raff wields a laser gun and explains they wish to return to their home planet and do not agree with Frank-n-Furter's extreme lifestyle, although he tries to explain himself to them ("I'm Going Home"). Unimpressed, Riff Raff announces that Frank-n-Furter will not be returning with them. Attempting to save Frank-n-Furter, Columbia steps between him and Riff Raff, but she, along with Frank-n-Furter and Rocky, are killed by the laser gun. Dr. Scott commends Riff Raff's actions, and Riff Raff orders the earthlings to leave. As Riff Raff and Magenta rejoice, the castle blasts off to return to the planet Transsexual, in the galaxy of Transylvania.
Dr. Scott, Brad and Janet leave the castle confused and unsure about themselves ("Superheroes"). The Narrator says "and crawling on the planets face, tiny insects called the human race, lost in time, and lost in space - and meaning." As the film ends, The usherette returns to sing "Science Fiction - Double Feature (Reprise)."
The Rocky Horror Show had a longer revival on Broadway from October 2000 to January 2002 and featured Tom Hewitt, Raúl Esparza, rock singer Joan Jett, Sebastian Bach, Dave August (from October 2001 to January 2002), funny lady Lea DeLaria, and Daphne Rubin-Vega of Rent fame. From October 2001 to January 2002, several guest celebrities played the Narrator role normally performed by Dick Cavett, including magicians Penn & Teller, New York Post columnist Cindy Adams, MTV personality Dave Holmes, and talk show host Jerry Springer among others. It is suggested that the revival, like other shows running at the time, closed early because of financial losses during the time after 9/11. The Revival was nominated for the following Tony Awards: Best Actor: Tom Hewitt; Best Costume Designer: David C. Woolard; Best Director: Christopher Ashley; and Best Musical Revival.
The Rocky Horror Show continues to be a revival favourite, with new productions and tours appearing regularly worldwide. Fans dress up as the characters, shout "call-backs" at the stage, and use props at appropriate moments, such as water pistols and newspapers during a scene in the rain and throwing toast when Frank calls for "a toast." Many theatres no longer allow this.
The 2006 tour was directed by Christopher Luscombe and featured David Bedella as Frank-N-Furter, Suzanne Shaw as Janet, Matthew Cole as Brad, Iain Davey as Riff Raff, Shona White as The Usherette/Magenta, Kay Murphy as Columbia, Julian Essex-Spurrier as Rocky and Nathan Amzi as Eddie/Dr. Scott with Sarah Boulton, Stuart Ellis, Lynden O'Neill and Claire Parrish as the Phantoms. After a Christmas season at the Comedy Theatre, London, the tour continued with several cast changes including Richard Meek as Brad, Sarah Boulton and later Hayley Tamaddon as Janet, Matt Harrop as Riff Raff, Claire Parrish as The Usherette/Magenta, Sarah French-Ellis and later Sarah Boulton as Columbia and Sergio Priftis as Rocky with Lauren Appleby, Erin Carter and Kevin Littlejohn as the Phantoms and Bedella, Amzi and Ellis retaining their original roles.
The 2006 tour cast, accompanied by Roger Lloyd-Pack as the Narrator and author Richard O'Brien, performed "The Time Warp" live in Trafalgar Square on Saturday 22 July 2006 as part of The Big Dance event and was broadcast on BBC1's Dancing in the Street.
In recent years, this has been discouraged by theatres due to the safety implications of debris and water on the stage.
The Rocky Interactive Horror Show Game was released in March/April 1999 for the PC by On-Line PLC. Similarly to the earlier CRL game, the player plays as Brad or Janet and must rescue their partner from the castle. Unlike the older computer game, its gameplay was more puzzle-oriented, and benefited from the added detail, graphics, and live video sequences that the PC could provide.