Priscilla Queen Of The Desert

Posted on: 07 April 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

Laurence Green reviews the ultimate feel-good theatrical experience that is Priscilla Queen Of The Desert at the Palace Theatre.


Three exotically dressed divas descend from the ceiling and come to rest above an illuminated Sydney Harbour Bridge, a group of dancers perform an energetic routine below and the audience is sprayed with confetti.

Welcome to the ultimate feel-good theatrical experience that is Priscilla Queen Of The Desert (Palace Theatre), a riotously enjoyable show where a spirit of contagious vulgarity prevails.

Based on the Oscar award-winning film, it tells the story of Tick, Bernadette and Adam, a glamorous Sydney-based trio of drag artistes, none of them especially happy with their lives and, in order to enliven their mundane existence, agree to take their show to Alice Springs. So they hob aboard a pink neon bus (named Priscilla of course!) and travel across the outback searching for love and friendship, but encountering hostility, homophobia, and even a friendly mechanic!

By the time one of the trio reveals that he is married and the father of a son and another falls in love with the apparently “straight” mechanic, we have come to care for them as they come to care for each another.

If you find drag a bit of a drag then this heart-warming and uplifting musical will completely win you over with its dazzling array of outrageous, colourful costumes and virtually non-stop score of dance-floor classics including Downtown (the opening number), A Fine Romance, Go West, I Say A Little Prayer, I Will Survive, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (which could be the message of this musical) and Always On My Mind. Simon Phillip’s choreography ranges from the more restrained fifties-style cabaret to hip-thrusting in-yer-face outrageousness.

Furthermore the wonderfully funny and touching script by Stephen Elliott and Allan Scott ensures there is not a dull moment. In one particularly hilarious scene the funeral of a queen asphyxiated by the fumes of his hair bleach is accompanied by the soundtrack of The Communards; Don’t Leave Me This Way and the bus even lights up!

Jason Donavon lends poignancy to the conflicted character of Tick, the only “straight” man amongst the trio, while Oliver Thornton is bitchily comic as Adam. Best of all, though, is Tony Sheldon, who brings great dignity and warmth to the role of the ageing transsexual Bernadette.

Make no mistake this is not a musical which will be to everyone’s taste, particularly the easily offended, but I guarantee it will make you forget all your troubles during the gloomy economic downturn. I certainly had one hell of a good time!

Where: Palace Theatre, London
Box Office: 0844 755 0016

By Laurence Green

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