Priscilla Queen of the Desert – The Musical by Stephan Elliott & Allan Scott
Theatre Royal Plymouth
Theatre Royal Plymouth Box Office – 01752 267222
REVIEW – 20 JANUARY 2020
As stage musicals go, they don’t get much further ‘in your face’ that Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Based on the 1994 film, it made its way into musical theatre in 2006 and has been around the world a few times since. This new production is on an extensive UK tour and it’s enormous fun.
The world of drag is very much of the moment; not so at the end of the last century, but this doesn’t take away from the show in any way. A jukebox musical in all but name, the show succeeds, where others of its genre fail, by being blessed with a very funny script and a storyline with more depth than its surface betrays.
This new production is performed with energy, verve and a huge dollop of sass. The script is rude, smutty and outrageous, but it is offered to the audience in a way which gives them permission to laugh; very possibly at things they wouldn’t normally react well to. It’s a liberating show.
Now, aspects of the story particularly regarding the acceptance of gay men, may be seen as outdated and thus lacking relevance and power and, although times have indeed changed, the issues still have a resonance. Ultimately this is a tale of love and friendship played out in an exuberant and uplifting manner.
I am not sure I have heard such good singing in a musical for a long time. The whole Company are in complete control and with the commanding vocals of the three Diva’s – who are brilliant – to the three leads whose voices combine in the most beautiful fashion.
Joe McFadden gives the central character of Tick likeability in spades and he sings beautifully and Nick Hayes completely throws himself into the outrageous Felicia – he moves and sings without inhibition and restraint – wonderful. Stealing the show is the experienced Miles Western as Bernadette – this as perfectly judged performance of nuance and guile and a decent helping of bitch! The three work perfectly together. Later in the story they are complemented by a sensitive and really sweet performance from Daniel Fletcher as Bernadette’s new beau, Bob.
Costumes are fun and fabulous and thrown on and off with enormous speed by the whole company. The sets work well and the lighting highlights the show perfectly.
This mad show is punctuated by some wonderfully tender and emotional moments which lift it from the norm and offer it a three-dimensional quality. It is a class above.
Ian Talbot directs with breathless pace, but with great sensitivity. The band, under the direction of Sean Green are spot on and helped enormously by a sound balance which is virtually faultless.
With the truly awful goings-on in Australia in recent times, a curtain appeal for donations from the audience is absolutely right and having royally entertained the standing crowds, the Company should find their fundraising does them proud.
Maybe Priscilla isn’t everyone’s pint of Fosters, but it is a huge crowd-pleasing piece of theatrical entertainment which is utterly hard to resist. This production certainly does it justice.
JOE MCFADDEN – TICK/MITZI
MILES WESTERN – BERNADETTE
NICK HAYES – FELICIA/ADAM
JAK ALLEN-ANDERSON – FARRAH
NATALIE CHUA – ENSEMBLE
EMMA CROSSLEY – ENSEMBLE
JORDAN CUNNINGHAM – ENSEMBLE
DANIEL FLETCHER – BOB
MARTIN HARDING – SWING
JUSTIN-LEE JONES – ENSEMBLE
CLAUDIA KARIUKI – DIVA
NELL MARTIN – SWING
AIESHA PEASE – DIVA
EDWIN RAY – FRANK
JACQUI SANCHEZ – CYNTHIA
MIRANDA WILFORD – MARION
KEVIN YATES – MISS UNDERSTANDING
JACK ILLINGWORTH/BEAU PLESTED – BENJI
DIRECTOR – IAN TALBOT
MUSICAL DIRECTOR – SEAN GREEN
CHOREOGRAPHY – TOM JACKSON-GREAVES
LIGHTING DESIGN – BEN CRACKNELL
SOUND DESIGN – BEN HARRISON
SET & COSTUME DESIGN – CHARLES CUSICK-SMITH & PHIL R DANIELS