Priscilla Queen Of The Desert – New Alexandra Theatre

Reviewed by Helen McWilliams

Following the West End success of this high energy show, we entered the auditorium with exceedingly high expectations. There were many elements throughout the bright and bubbly evening’s entertainment that met these expectations. Jason Donovan reprising his role of ‘Tick’ (Mitzi) was a real treat and he demonstrated just how well he has made the transition from soap star to pop star to theatre star. Richard Grieve who is known to television viewers as ‘Sam’ from ‘Neighbours’ and ‘Jonny’ in ‘Emmerdale’ gave a refined performance as ‘Bernadette’ who is changing gender. Following in Tony Sheldon’s footsteps can’t have been easy as Sheldon certainly played the role to critical acclaim, but Grieve showed off a superb singing voice and looked great in a ‘frock’!!

Graham Weaver gave the most elaborate performance of the night as ‘Adam’ (Felicia) and looked stunning in the selection of ‘drag’ outfits that he sported. His entrance to ‘Venus’ was a highlight, ‘Colour my World’ towards the end of act one was also excellently led by Weaver and brought great hilarity when the ensemble appeared dressed as paint brushes! The ‘divas’ make regular appearances and are played by Emma Kingston, Ellie Leah and Laura Mansell. Most of their entrances are ‘flying’ ones which is no mean feat. Also making a humorous contribution was Alan Hunter as ‘Miss Understanding’, I will never watch Tina Turner in quite the same way again!!

The story is based on that of the film, where ‘Tick’ decides to make the trip to Alice Springs to see his young son (played by Oscar Francisco) whom he has never seen. His wife, Marion (Julie Stark) arranges for him (together with ‘Adam’ and ‘Bernadette’) to appear at the casino where she is working. Putting the old act back together, including newcomer ‘Felicia (‘Adam’) ‘Tick’ doesn’t let on that they are making the trip from Sydney in order for him to meet his boy. In the meantime, ‘Adam’ has managed to con his mother into giving him money for ‘Priscilla’ the bus which is to be their transport. ‘Priscilla’ for the UK tour is not on the same scale as the West End version, but it’s a good effort none the less. I particularly liked the coloured lights that appeared as the ‘boys’ painted her up during ‘Colour My World’.

It’s a fast-moving musical with some brilliant one-liners and disco tunes that the audience were clearly lapping up. ‘I Love the Nightlife’, ‘Shake Your Groove Thing’ and ‘Boogie Wonderland’ all had me itching to get up and dance, Jason Donovan sang ‘MacArthur Park’ in act two and I felt it was the best performance of that number that I have ever seen. Accompanying that particular tune were members of the ensemble dressed as green iced cakes with umbrellas – what creativity!

It’s lots of fun, might not be to everybody’s taste but from the standing ovation received at the end, it seems that most patrons left in high spirits. Priscilla is on at the New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 30th March and you can find tour date details at http://www.priscillathemusical.com.

First published 30.03.13

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