Review: Priscilla Queen Of The Desert The Musical @ WMC
A new year means new shows. The temperature has dropped drastically and we crave some heat and spice in our lives. The WMC have offered us a tasty morsel. The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert is an Oscar winning Australian classic. The film is so flamboyant that it shrieks for a staged counterpart.
The musical is a safe bet, no new songs only classic selections from the past few decades from Elvis and Motown to Bananarama and Kylie. I expected new songs, but Priscilla, like many things is proud of her place in the jukebox musical gallery. It is a rude, crude show, with some tender moments in defence of drag artists and homosexuals.
This motley crew of divas and queens are on tour to Alice Spring (i.e. the middle of nowhere) from Sydney. There, Tick's wife finally wants him to meet their son Benji (he worries his son might not accept him actually being gay) but it's also a good excuse to perform a fabulous set, with the transgender Bernadette and prima donna Adam. The show is strong in the rip roaring, acid drop comebacks and snide remarks, as the three regularly jab at one another. This isn't The Sound Of Music and should certainly not be viewed by children...
Most of the songs are decent and sung well, yet it is the outrageously OTT costumes that leave your eyes reeling from the violent colour scheme and ambition of every garment. The set is smaller for the tour, but the Priscilla bus frequents the stage, with all sorts of other frills as well. The show does have that hackneyed aesthetic of finding a pop song and using it at what appears to be the right moment in the show, in a sometimes vain attempt to create a "mood". This idea is getting very old, but the concern is these jukebox musicals having taken over now.
Jason Donovan as Tick gave good vocals, with perhaps the occasionally tone slip here and there. You feel for his journey in all senses and you rejoice at his son's acceptance of him. Simon Green's Bernadette is a classy and witty performance, the glue that keeps their journey to the outback together. Stealing the show on numerous occasions was Adam Bailey as Adam or Felicia (his drag name), acting as camp as ten Christmases and as catty as a row of felines. Though loveable, the character's idleness and love of Kylie are most definitely his pitfalls.
There's a grand supporting cast as well: loveable Philip Childs as Bob, Julie Yammanee as crazy Cynthia and the three Divas (Laura Mansell, Catherine Mort and Lisa-Marie Holmes) who are narrators of sorts (being part of the miming renditions the older drag acts used) are floating in the air several times and are part of many costume changes throughout. The ensemble of dancers, singers and an invisible orchestra (who were heard from the wings) all contributed towards the funky time had by all (the disco balls helped). At moments, the sexiness was heating up the theatre!
Lovers of the film, jukeboxes musicals and really good drag acts should certainly see this show.
Fabulous and very OTT.
Rating: 3 stars
Priscilla Queen Of The Desert The Musical continues at the Wales Millennium Centre till Saturday 16th January 2016
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Images: Paul Coltas & Darren Bell