Review: Priscilla Queen of The Desert. Nottingham Royal Concert Hall

three half stars

Priscilla Queen Of The Desert – the musical, is allegedly one of the most popular touring shows around and it returns once again to Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall culminating in a standing ovation tonight for the gloriously OTT finale. The jukebox musical is directed by Simon Phillips and choreographed by Ross Coleman and Andrew Hallsworth. Priscilla is chock-a-block with over twenty pop musical numbers and Jason Donovan is currently at the helm as Tick [Mitzi]. Live orchestration comes courtesy of Stephen ‘Spud’ Murphy and Charlie Hull.

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As well as the life size touring bus designed by Brian Thompson, the dazzling show features cross dressing up, fabulous excess, gaudy costumes and ridiculous head-pieces and a mish mash of homo-erotic costumes. The costume designers, Tim Chappel and Lizzi Gardiner must have put a thick, all concealing, smear of black eye liner through the word ‘understated’ in their design dictionary. Their extra-ordinary costumes are a major part of the appeal of Priscilla and without them the show concept would fall flat on its heavily made up face and that would be a drag.

For those of you who have been living all alone in the outback, Priscilla – Queen Of The Desert, started life as an Australian film that, despite original lack of industry interest regarding financial and artistic backing, has gained a cult following. The film and show’s creators Stephen Elliott and Allan Scott must be singing and dancing all the way to the bank with their great success.

Priscilla isn’t plot heavy. Two drag artists and a transsexual woman take off across Australia in a camper bus. The physical journey takes them from Sydney to Alice Springs where they have been promised a gig and gay Tick (Jason Donovan) hopes to meet his young son – a fact he is keeping a secret from the other two. Plus the fact he is still married. There are bitchy disputes a-plenty along the route. Raging homophobia and the threat of violence erupt from certain communities and the light of true love for transsexual Bernadette (Simon Green) flickers on the dusty horizon. Tick worries how his young son Benji (William Rhead) will react when he discovers his father is gay and works as a drag queen.

The energetic and witty show is sentimental in parts and raucously funny in others. The song and dance ensemble spectaculars are all professionally handled and visually stunning. However, this reviewer is unsure about the merits of letting some of the audience members join in the opening second half number Thank God I’m A Country Boy. It feels like a clumsy filler, out of place and in a very different world from the performers’ verbal interactions with the audience.

This touring production of Priscilla boasts some excellent performances, not only from the talented Jason Donovan but also from Robin Mills as Adam [Felicia] standing in tonight for Adam Bailey. Mills captures the strutting and annoying bitchiness of Adam perfectly but brings out many more sympathetic qualities later in the piece. Simon Green as transsexual Bernadette puts in possibly the best performance of the show- old style glamour dressed in a succession of beautiful frocks and Green shows off his very moving and powerful singing voice. Julie Yammanee is utterly hilarious in her crazy woman role as Cynthia and her sexy ping pong routine is eye poppingly funny.

The ensemble all look like they are thoroughly enjoying themselves and the three divas – Lisa-Marie Holmes, Laura Mansell and Catherine Mort are vocally outstanding.

For a sparkling show with more camp than a row of pink camper vans, Priscilla Queen Of The Desert – the musical is currently parked up at Nottingham Royal Concert Hall and from the audience reactions tonight, comes highly recommended. Runs until Sat 23 January 2016.

Originally published on The Reviews Hub here.

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