Winter is definitely with us. It’s cold, windy and the shops are full of Christmas tat. This is the time of year that the world needs something spectacular to bring a bit of happiness and raise the spirits. And, right now, the brightest show in town is Priscilla Queen of the Desert which has just opened at the Bridewell Theatre.
Sydney, Australia and drag queen Mitzi Mitosis (Richard Upton) needs a break. Luckily, he has received a phone call from Marion (Natalie Harding-Moore), the manager of the Alice Springs Casino. Among other things, she wants Mitzi – real name Anthony “Tick” Belrose – to come and perform at the casino. Tick leaps at the idea and ropes in fellow drag queen Felicia Jollygoodfellow (Ian Thiele-Long) and Trans woman Bernadette (Alexander McKinven) to join him on the epic 1,723 miles (2,773 kilometres) journey. Bernadette and Felicia – real name Adam Whitely – really don’t get on with Adam’s scathing comments about Bernadette’s trans status and her believing Adam is a talentless show-off, but the three of them embark on their road trip in their bus – the Priscilla of the title. Along the way they meet some of the inhabitants of Australia’s more remote towns and Priscilla gets a complete make-over. They also pick up mechanic Bob (Mark Macey) whose wife Cynthia (Romana Mass) has the party trick to end all party tricks.
Eventually, the quartet arrives where a special young boy by the name of Benjamin (Evan Huntley-Robertson / Matthew Cise) and a large red rock will bring Mitzi, Felicia and Bernadette’s trip to an end and start the three of them on a new journey into the unknown.
Priscilla Queen of the Desert is one of my all-time favourite films and I saw the London production more than once and loved it every time. So I went to the theatre expecting an OK night but also prepared to be let down slightly. Oh boy, I could not have been more wrong. From the moment the lights went down and the Divas (Victoria Greenway, Carin Miller and Skyla Loureda) it was obvious that Sedos had put together a fantastic show that really brings the story – by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott – to life and, while remaining faithful to its origins is a superb production in its own right. Don’t be fooled though, Priscilla Queen of the Desert isn’t just a sparkling story of three gays in a bus. There is actually a deeper story of friendship, love, understanding and companionship along with dream fulfilment at its heart that is often sweet and tender and acts as a perfect counterpoint to the more lively sections.
So, where to start with what is right with the show? Let’s go with costumes – Sequins and glitter ruled the day with the drag and Diva costumes sparkling under the lights. But it extended to more than the glamorous costumes, all of the others were perfect as well – particularly the various costumes of the nations used in the tourist scene, not to mention the rainbow cactus which, while I’m sure was really uncomfortable to perform in, looked great from my seat on the front row. I think for me, one of the highlights of the costumes was the funeral scene where, whilst everyone was in black, really epitomised the sort of thing a bunch of LGBT people would wear at a funeral – you’ll have to go and see the show to really appreciate what I mean here. By the way, if anyone is thinking about Christmas presents for me, then I would love either Adam’s boots or Tick’s green sequin lined pajamas. Let’s turn to the set and, at the heart of Priscilla Queen of the Desert is a single decker bus that has to transport everyone across Australia and at some point in the show turn pink. Without giving away too much, Designer Steven King gives the set everything it needs in faultless style. You will see a massive bus, you will see a casino, and you will see Ayers Rock. Before moving on, I would like to give a massive shout out to all the backstage crew who did a sterling job in transforming men to drag queens and back again in the blink of an eye as well as helping with the costume changes of the sixteen-strong cast.
Acting-wise, our three leading men were truly awesome. I’m going out on a limb here, but I reckon a lot of guys would, just once, like to dress up as a drag queen and perform to an adoring audience – no? Just me then – but it was obvious that Richard, Alexander and Ian were absolutely revelling in their roles as Tick, Bernadette and Felicia respectively. And I was right there with them every step of the journey. I laughed when they laughed and cried when they cried. Like Bernadette, I got infuriated with Adam but learned to love him as the show went on. There was a real chemistry between the three leads that flowed into the audience and made the preposterousness of the overall story seem something that was actually possible. All told, there were no weak links in the cast, with everyone from the ensemble to the leads looking great and moving nicely. Director Angus Jacobs and Choreographer Eloise Horton make the cast work hard and cover every inch of the stage in some really impressive dance numbers.
Overall, then I guess it’s pretty obvious I enjoyed Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Sedos have put together and delivered a first-rate show that is fun with a capital ‘F’ and entertaining with a capital ‘E’ from start to finish. The perfect start to the Christmas season, if you don’t leave the theatre at least humming one of the songs, then just pop off and change your name to Ebenezer. If I had to sum up Priscilla Queen of the Desert in one word it would be this FAB-U-LOUS!
Review by Terry Eastham
Sedos presents a new sell-out production of the award-winning musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the Bridewell Theatre, off Fleet Street, from 22 November-2 December 2017. The musical, which has book by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott, is based on the 1994 Oscar winning Latent Image/Specific Films Motion Picture distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.
The critically-acclaimed stage musical version of Priscilla has played to packed houses all over the world during its 11-year journey since its premiere in Sydney in 2006. Sedos’ new production of Priscilla promises a vibrant and energetic production – with a cast of 25, many of whom are featuring in their first Sedos production.
A colourful and vibrant spectacular featuring all-time dance and pop hits from the 80’s and 90’s, the story follows the adventure of three friends brought together under unique circumstances. They travel in a wonderfully quirky bus from the glamour and sparkle of Sydney as they ‘Go West’ into the heart of the Australian desert continent.
The production has direction by Angus Jacobs, musical direction by Ryan Macaulay and choreography by Eloise Horton.
Tick | Richard Upton
Adam | Ian Thiele-Long
Bernadette | Alex McKinven
Diva | Victoria Greenway
Diva | Corin Miller
Diva | Skyla Loureda
Bob | Mark Macey
Miss Understanding | John Bainton
Marion | Natalie Harding-Moore
Shirley | Rowena Turner
Cynthia | Romana Moss
Frank | Andy Macpherson
Jimmy | Claire Linney
Farrah | Alex Magliaro
Pastor | Chris Warner
Benji | Matthew Cise and Evan Huntley-Robertson
Ensemble: Sarah Berryman, Lauren Coffey, James Franey, Matt Madeley, Emma Morgan, Tashan Nicholas, Caroline Scott, Ben Thiele-Long, Rebecca Weymouth and Josh Yeardley.
Director | Angus Jacobs
Musical Director | Ryan Macaulay
Choreographer| Eloise Horton
Assistant Director | Laura Graham-Matheson
Producer | Lizzie Drapper
Set Designer | Steve King
Lighting Designer | Olly Levett
Sound Designer | Adrian Jeakins
Stage Manager | Andrew Laidlaw
Committee Liaison | Stephen Beeny
Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical
Book by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott, and based on the Latent Image/Specific Films Motion Picture distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.
Wednesday 22 November to Saturday 2 December 2017
Evenings at 7.30pm, Saturday matinees at 2.30pm
Bridewell Theatre, Bride Lane, off Fleet Street, London EC4Y 8EQ
The whole run is sold out, but returns may be available from the theatre box office, which opens 30 minutes before the performance. More info: sedos.co.uk