Who doesn’t love the story of the three drag queens travelling in a big bus to a casino via the Australian outback? It is a movie which was just destined for a stage adaptation. After it being a few years since I’ve seen the feel-good film that is ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’, I attended the press evening for the new UK & Ireland tour of the much-loved musical adaptation at the Edinburgh Playhouse.
The story follows Tick, a drag queen who has been asked by his wife to come perform at her casino for a season so he can get to know the son he has never met. When he invites his two drag queen friends Bernadette and Adam along for the journey what could go wrong?
Joe McFadden gives us an emotional and funny rollercoaster as Tick/Mitzi. It is a very refreshing portrayal where we see slight hints of camp and not an over the top queen, which really suits this character. Even more, there is a great vulnerability shown, especially in the scenes which approach homophobic themes. Joe’s light vocals sound brilliant while singing those colourful pop numbers. And of course he shows great confidence and delight in taking on the choreography in this production. This character is perfectly suited to Joe who is by no doubt a triple threat, and actually a stunning drag queen!
Miles Western as Bernadette is a simply delightful performance to watch, the way Miles takes care to give an accurate trans portrayal is truly admirable. There is slight femininity played into this role but not a stereotypical over powering. This with honest reactions, great comic timing, great singing and top dancing in heels, Miles delivers a great performance.
Nick Hayes is a showstopping diva and no mistake as Felicia/Adam. The presence that Nick brings to stage is one which many fans of the film will instantly compare to Guy Pearce, the portrayal Nick brings us is slightly more energetic and youthful, however it is definitely the same standard as what was presented to us within the motion picture. Nick’s vocal ability is great, along with his great stance as a drag queen, this is champagne casting, as Nick owns both sides of this character.
Aiesha Pease, Claudia Kariuki and Rosie Glossop as the divas, give us staggering vocals along with a great modern portrayal of a greek chorus. The three give as much energy and power as they can into their performances.
Miranda Wilford as Marion gives us a sense of naturalism and radiates kindness in her role as Benji’s mother, plus Tick’s wife. Henry Muir is adorable as Benji, he pulls the audience’s heartstrings with his openness and how he embraced the farcical scenes.
Daniel Fletcher is hilariously accessible as Bob, his character is one which is the most relatable to the audience’s reaction in the crazy moments. This is how he simply plays the character so honestly, and his relationship with the equally as brilliant Jacqui Sanchez, as his majorly mental wife, Cynthia. They both send the audience into hysterics with that infamous ping pong ball scene.
The ensemble for this cast are on stage persistently giving a hell ton of energy, owning the choreography and just lifting the scenes up fantastically. The ensemble are as follows; Jak Allen-Anderson, Natalie Chua, Emma Crossley, Jordan Cunningham, Martin Harding (Swing), Justin-Lee Jones (Assistant Dance Captain), Nell Martin (Swing/Dance Captain), Edwin Ray and Kevin Yates.
Ian Talbot (OBE), directs this magical dragtastic mayhem with colourful confidence, he balances the absurd and naturalistic scenes perfectly with such confidence. The audience are hooked with this production which bursts onto stage, the use of space is perfect, he also makes sure that the supporting characters are just as important as the almost iconic Tick, Adam and Bernadette. He makes perfect use of Stephan Elliot and Allan Scott’s book, wringing nearly every ounce of colour or humour suggested. Tom Jackson Greaves’ choreography slips delightfully into this production, the moves suit the characters perfectly and the stylized movement moments just add to the absurdity of this story. Sean Green lifts and re-energizes this musical’s soundtrack with his musical direction and Stephen ‘Spud’ Murphy’s musical arrangement. Charles Cusick-Smith and Phil R Daniels’ costume design is stunning, the drag queens’ outfits just radiate colour and character on stage. All the other costume in this production is also high standard and fit in perfectly to the setting of each scene. Their set design is minimalistic which works in every aspect apart from the bus, as much as at points it does look realistic, at others it is too clumsy and rather clunky. This production would be better suited to a fully built bus coming on an off rather than it coming apart and working as different back drops.
The new UK & Ireland touring production of ‘Priscilla Queen of The Desert the Musical’ is a colourful, fun, discotastic and meaningful show. The cast deliver great portrayals featuring camp madness and also apt tackling of relevant issues. If you love musical theatre or the movie this musical has been adapted from then you really don’t want to miss this.
Written by Lewis C. Baird
Tickets for ‘Priscilla Queen of The Desert’ are available via the below link: