THEATRE REVIEW | Priscilla Queen Of The Desert, Sheffield Lyceum and National Tour31st October 2013
Three drag queens “unplug their curling wands and go bush” to travel across the outback en route to a show in a casino in Alice Springs. Along the way, they bitch, bicker and laugh their way across the dessert, and continuously ensure that they are looking their best whilst “dressing up in women’s clothing and mouthing the words to other people’s songs”.
Tick (Noel Sullivan), Bernadette (Richard Grieve) and Adam (Graham Weaver) buy a budget Barbie camper; christen it Priscilla and head into the outback to perform a show at a casino run by Tick’s wife in Alice Springs. Stopping off along the way, the trio make friends, get themselves into trouble, fall in love, strengthen their friendship and following the bus breaking down, pick up mechanic Bill who leaves his wife (who has an extraordinary talent which she shows off in the local pub) as they head to the middle of nowhere for the show of their life.
Based on the film of the same name, this stage musical was excellent fun. Following the story of the film fairly closely (albeit it with some minor changes) it was a show which is unashamedly flamboyant. The show uses a combination of camp disco classics, opening with “It’s Raining Men” and including “I Will Survive”, “I Love the Nightlife”, “Go West” and “Finally”, which meant that the whole audience were clapping, cheering and laughing from the moment the curtain went up.
In terms of the cast, Noel Sullivan (who is perhaps best known for being a member of “Hear’say”) was functional as Tick, but played the part with a little bit too much camp, watering down the interplay between the straight laced Tick and outrageous Adam. Richard Grieve was much better than expected as Bernadette. But Graham Weaver stood out with an enjoyable performance as Adam/Felicia. The supporting cast were, as you would expect, ludicrously attractive and beautifully toned and threw themselves into the musical numbers with energy and gusto.
The whole thing was colourful, exuberant and thoroughly entertaining with a cleverly designed set (with the bus on stage) and a sharp, funny script with all of the characters that you know and love from the film. But where the show really came into its own was in the musical numbers, taking some from the film and some new ones introduced for the show, the routines were over the top, bold, brassy and ballsy, with costumes to match. The enthusiasm of the cast was clear and it was abundantly obvious that they were enjoying themselves as much as the audience.
The costumes in themselves are worthy of a mention. Some were recreated from the film (flip flop dress, anyone?) and the others just added to the campness of the proceedings. Everything from dancing paintbrushes to dancing birthday cakes, hicks, lizards, Marie Antoinette’s, Ostriches and scantily clad, leather wearing dancers were all on stage in a dazzling spectacular.
The only downside of this production was that the music was a little loud over the vocals on the odd occasion, but these are very minor quibbles when the show was as much fun as it was.
The show is one which is perhaps best seen on a Friday or Saturday evening. Its two hour running time quite literally flew by with the whole thing never really slows down. Overall, this was a really great, fun show and a piece of feel-good, uplifting and ultimately heart-warming theatre which has its tongue firmly lodged in its cheek. It’s a real feast for the eyes, the ears, the heart, the soul and the funny bone.
Priscilla Queen of the Desert is currently at Sheffield Lyceum theatre