Two women have made separate reports to Victorian police about the behaviour of actor Craig McLachlan during the 2014 Gordon Frost Organisation production of The Rocky Horror Show. A joint investigation by the ABC and Fairfax Media has revealed that three actors in the production have claimed McLachlan indecently assaulted, intimidated and harassed them both on and off stage during the production, which is currently enjoying a return season (with McLachlan again in the role of Frank N Furter) at the Adelaide Festival Centre before it travels to Brisbane and Perth.
Actors Erika Heynatz, Christie Whelan Browne and Angela Scundi, who performed with McLachlan in the production, have come forward with detailed allegations of abuse and have reportedly hired a lawyer to request an investigation into their claims. Two of the women have also said they complained at the time to senior production staff but that nothing was done.
Craig McLachlan, Christie Whelan Browne and Tim Maddren in the 2014 production of The Rocky Horror Show. Photo © Jeff Busby
“I had to be on stage with him in a bed, an upright bed, and I was wearing just bra, undies and garter,” Whelan Browne, who played Janet in the production, told the ABC. “He was pretending to go down on me, that was the scene,” she said. “But he was directed to kiss down my neck, down my arm and then go down, out of sight. But he would always kiss down my breasts and continue to kiss all the way down until I would have to sort of move and wriggle away.”
“I had to turn facing away from him and one night he pulled my underpants to the side so that my right butt cheek was out and he was kissing all around it.”
Whelan Browne also detailed allegations of lewd and inappropriate comments about her body, unwanted touching and physical aggression.
Whelan Browne later starred alongside McLachlan in Channel Ten’s The Wrong Girl, telling the ABC she felt she had to continue to maintain a civil relationship with McLachlan for the sake of her career. She said his behaviour towards her on the show was appropriate.
Erika Heynatz, who played Magenta in The Rocky Horror Show, has accused McLachlan of making several unwanted advances and reported complaining to a senior production crew member that she had witnessed McLachlan putting his hand up another actor’s skirt while she was performing.
Angela Scundi, has also made detailed accusations of unwanted sexual advances on and off stage, including that McLachlan kissed her onstage against her will and when confronted about it became abusive. “He was just a different person,” Scundi told the ABC. “He said, ‘You are nothing. Don’t you dare talk to me like that. I will end you.’ And in that moment, I believed him.”
The ABC has reportedly has seen documentation including emails, texts and a doctor’s referral which support the women’s claims
McLachlan has rigorously denied any wrong-doing, describing allegations against him as “baseless and vicious” lies. “Frankly, they seem to be simple inventions, perhaps made for financial reasons, perhaps to gain notoriety,” he said in an email to the ABC. “In either event, they are to the best of my knowledge utterly and entirely false.”
McLachlan said The Rocky Horror Show was a “confrontational musical oozing with sexuality”. “As such, as part of the musical the actors have to perform certain actions, all of which follow from the show itself – and indeed ‘make’ the show.”
The women have reportedly told the ABC they have never sought money and that they want assurances the current cast of the show is not at any risk. Lawyers for the Gordon Frost Organisation, which has produced hit musicals in Australia such as currently playing shows The Wizard of Oz and The Book of Mormon, have reportedly been resistant to the women’s call for the organisation to take part in an independent investigation by senior barristers, allegedly threatening to sue the women for defamation. Limelight has contacted the Gordon Frost Organisation and has been told a statement is forthcoming.
Victorian police have confirmed that they are investigating, releasing a statement: “Detectives from Melbourne’s Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team are investigating allegations of sexual offences dating back to 2014. As the investigation is ongoing it would be inappropriate to make any further comments.”
The “show” is not an excuse. These women are professional, talented and strong leaders in our industry. They are telling the truth. It needs to be heard. Thank you @Christie_Whelan @ErikaHeynatz and Angela for your strength and conviction. https://t.co/nez5wIm79k
— Amy Lehpamer (@AmyLehpamer) January 7, 2018
A number of industry figures have come out in support of the women on social media. “The ‘show’ is not an excuse,” wrote Amy Lehpamer (who took over the role of Janet in The Rocky Horror Show, playing the role when it opened in Sydney in 2015) on Twitter. “These women are professional, talented and strong leaders in our industry. They are telling the truth. It needs to be heard. Thank you @Christie_Whelan @ErikaHeynatz and Angela for your strength and conviction.”
I give my friends @Christie_Whelan @ErikaHeynatz & Angela Scundi my full support. Remember – They have no reason to make this up and went to unions, producers, police and lawyers prior to this being public. https://t.co/MbjYz4JZzE via @smh
— Lisa Campbell 🌈 (@LCLuckiest) January 7, 2018
Lisa Campbell tweeted, “I give my friends @Christie_Whelan @ErikaHeynatz & Angela Scundi my full support. Remember – They have no reason to make this up and went to unions, producers, police and lawyers prior to this being public,” while Esther Hannaford tweeted, “Standing with my brave mates and colleagues today. @Christie_Whelan @ErikaHeynatz @AngelaScundi I’m sorry that this happened and was allowed to happen to you all. Thank you for having the courage to stand up and speak out. You have all my support.”
Standing with my brave mates and colleagues today. @Christie_Whelan @ErikaHeynatz @AngelaScundi I’m sorry that this happened and was allowed to happen to you all. Thank you for having the courage to stand up and speak out. You have all my support. https://t.co/FBOZ5xjNEp
— Esther Hannaford (@EstherHannaford) January 7, 2018
“My aim is for women in the same situation as me to have protection against this sort of behaviour, to be able to go to a company and say, ‘I’m afraid’, and for that to be taken seriously, and especially a show where you are in bra and undies and very vulnerable,” Whelan Browne told the ABC. “I hope that in coming forward, which is something that is very difficult and something I’ve tried to avoid, I hope that it makes a change.”
The allegations against McLachlan have emerged in the wake of an anonymous survey for members of the live enteratainment industry by the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance that found 40 percent of respondents had experience at least one form of sexual harassment. The Union plans to work with theatre companies to develop better procedures to deal with sexual harassment and bullying.