Festive 19/20ReviewSouth East

Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical – Theatre Royal, Brighton

Reviewer: Simon Topping

Book: Stephen Elliot and Allan Scott

Director: Ian Talbot

Priscilla Queen of the Desert comes into town just in time to shake off the post-election blues and get Brighton ready for some well needed Christmas cheer.

It has been twenty-five years since the motion picture The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert came gloriously roaring into cinema screens and wowing a worldwide audience and 2019 tour of the musical based on this hit has plenty of sass, glamour and energy to give in its own right.

The story focuses on two drag queens, Tick (Joe McFadden) and Adam (Nick Hayes) and a transgender woman, Bernadette (Miles Western), as they take a road trip from Sydney to Alice Springs in their temperamental mode of transport; a dilapidated bus they nickname Priscilla. The action sees them meet lots of people on the way, some not so supportive of the LGTB+ community, with the final stop being a residency at the Alice Springs Casino a nerve racking first meeting Tick must have with his young son. A child who Tick keeps a secret from his travelling companions.

From the very first beat of music Priscilla proves to be a feel good, upbeat production that has the whole room swaying to it’s tune. As the bass resonates through the front three rows, shaking the internal organs like a mini elephant stampede, the first of a long list of classic tunes, It’s Raining Men, bursts into song. At the Cock A Two club we meet the first of our lead characters, Tick.  He soon gets a phone call from his wife, a woman who remains a long distant secret from his drag life in Sydney. She needs Tick to come to connect with his son and so the first few numbers see our intrepid hero band together his small group of misfits for the road two week road trip across the brush.

Everyone in the cast is in top form for this performance, it’s a real treat to see so many cogs quickly turning together in harmony; it is perfect precision all round. The choreography, fabulously arranged by Tom Jackson Greaves, is dazzling and the costume changes done at dizzying speed.

The three leads all dance, sing and shimmy well. McFadden (Winner of Strictly 2017) is the obvious crowd puller for the production and equips himself tremendously well as the nervous dad, not knowing if his son will accept him for who he is. Western, as the elder statesman of the three gets most of the funniest lines and bitchy put downs to say and delivers them with style, great timing and panache. Hayes moves like a gazelle and belts out a tune like a top notch diva, it is powerful to behold.

The main protagonists are supported marvellously by a young, vibrant ensemble of twenty or so people, singing and dancing like there is no tomorrow.

The first half sets up the road trip and covers jaunty routines to hits such as Private Dancer and Say a Little Prayer for me.

As the girls start their travels they encounter some less than friendly, homophobic, locals and Bernie falls in love with a sweet mechanic they pick up o the road, called Bob.

One of the highlights is the hick scene where a grotesque bar maid sings about wanting love.

The thrills and spills of the journey have the Brighton crowd on their feet dancing and clapping along. The sparky book has plenty of laughs in it and as we near the tense meeting of father and son the tempo and pace of the musical ramps up to eleven.

All the elements of this show are pitch-perfect. This is a  must see and will add much-needed colour to your Christmas period; a triumph.

Runs until 4 January 2020 and on tour | Image: Contributed

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The South East team is under the editorship of Nicole Craft. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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