If there was ever a movie crying out to be turned into a musical, it’s 1994 Aussie hit, Priscilla. The addition of disco classics to this fabulously flamboyant tale of three friends on a road trip through the desert feels like the most natural thing in the world, and the resulting show is an infectiously joyful cocktail, which is guaranteed to brighten up even the dreariest Monday.
Tick (a.k.a. Mitzi), a disillusioned drag queen, invites his friends Adam (a.k.a. Felicia) and Bernadette (formerly Ralph) to join him in a new act in Alice Springs, but doesn’t tell them he has his own reason for going. So, hopping aboard their very own party bus, Priscilla, the three set off from Sydney on a journey of self-discovery that will bring arguments, revelations and a bucketload of innuendo.
Blue’s Duncan James seems totally at ease with both his male and female personas, not to mention an increasingly outrageous wardrobe, and gives a strong performance as the conflicted Tick. He’s joined by Simon Green, as Bernadette, a sophisticated lady who just happens to have once been a man, and who lives in fear that her best days – and her chances of finding Mr Right – are behind her. Her scathing one-liners are usually directed at Felicia, played by a deliciously camp Adam Bailey. Unlike Tick, he’s completely comfortable with who he is, and demonstrates it by being fabulously over the top, but not always showing the sensitivity to others that he expects for himself.
This show is a lot more just its stars, though, and has three unsung heroes (if you’ll pardon the pun) in the Divas. With the main characters’ act consisting of them lip syncing to pop songs, someone has to provide the soundtrack, and Lisa-Marie Holmes, Laura Mansell and Catherine Mort deliver a sensational performance. (This is all the more impressive considering they’re suspended from the roof by wires for most of the show.) There’s a brilliantly unhinged turn from Julie Yammanee as Cynthia, Philip Childs is a loveable hero as Bob – and the whole cast exude so much energy throughout that it’s impossible to resist the urge to get up and join in for the final medley.
And while we’re talking about unsung heroes, a quick word for the incredible wardrobe department, led by Suzanne Runciman. The outfits are not only visually stunning but also seemingly limitless; I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show with so many lightning-fast costume changes, and yet there’s not a wig out of place.
Priscilla is a camp extravaganza – quirky, cheeky and endlessly entertaining, with a fantastic disco soundtrack featuring the likes of I Will Survive, Venus and Hot Stuff. But the show’s not just about glitterballs and glamour; it has a serious point to make too about the importance of both accepting ourselves for who we are, and allowing others to be themselves too.
Bit cheesy? Absolutely. But when you’re having this much fun, who cares…
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford until 30th April.