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Theatre Review: Priscilla Queen of the Desert

28 January 20 words: Victoria Villasenor

If you want fun, feel-good theatre with exceptional voices, this is the show for you.

It has been 25 years since the movie, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, came out. Since then it’s become something of a cult classic. The musical is bound to have the same lifespan and following.

The story centres on three drag queens who set off across the vast desert of Australia to perform at a casino. A fabulous road trip, if you will. But it’s also deeper than that. One of the drag queens, Tick/Mitzi (beautifully performed by Joe McFadden) is worried about his relationship with the son he’s never met, and how he’ll be perceived. Bernadette, exquisitely played by Miles Western, is an older drag queen and a transwoman. Western shows Bernadette’s loneliness, her desire for love, and her incredible grace and charm in a way that captivates. And then there’s Felicia/Adam, who is still doing some growing up and learns some harsh lessons on the road.

And above all, it’s about friendship, and the chemistry the three of them have on stage makes that friendship absolutely believable. All three of them have lovely voices full of emotion and the dancing and singing were perfect.

Aside from the three main actors, it’s worth mentioning the ensemble cast standouts as well. The three divas, Rosie Glossop, Claudia Kariuki, and Aiesha Pease, who were onstage much like the chorus in an ancient Greek play, were outstanding. Daniel Fletcher, playing sweet, kind, lonely Bob, was an utterly perfect match for Bernadette. And we can’t forget the opening by Miss Understanding, played by Kevin Yates, who got the audience laughing the moment the curtain went up. I wish she’d been on stage more often!

The dancers brought fun and energy to the stage, and the quirky, bright costumes were an outlandish, often over the top way to underscore the songs. The dancing cupcakes, for instance, or the drag paintbrushes, complete with brush-top wigs.

The emotional aspects were handled well; not as intense as the movie, perhaps, but there with the reminder that it’s not all about glamour and costumes; the world can be a dangerous, unwelcome place, too.

The show ended on a high note, with Felicia, Tick, and Bernadette at the top of Uluru in full drag, just as Felicia had always hoped would happen. The audience was on their feet, singing along and cheering for a cast who executed the night perfectly.

If you’re looking for talented actors, lots of dancing and colour, and music that will stay with you long after the show ends, you should get to the Theatre Royal for a night you won’t forget.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert is on at Theatre Royal until Saturday 1 February.

Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall website

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