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Priscilla - Queen of the Desert (Bristol - tour)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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This touring musical takes one of the campest films ever made and camps it up some more, staging a celebratory romp through transgendered excess. The story is a road movie where three drag queens drive from their natural environment, the revue shows of Sydney, through the aggressively heterosexual Australian outback, arriving after a series of mishaps and adventures to the welcoming arms of Alice Springs. Families are reunited, true love is found in unlikely places, the show goes on. An entertaining story, but its the songs that matter here.

The score is a compendium of gay disco classics ( starting of course with 'Its Raining Men') and the three main characters and a wonderfully energetic chorus line sing, dance and lip synch their way through a blazing succession of routines. The costume changes come at a breath-taking pace and showcase surely some of the wildest headwear that the Hiippodrome has ever seen. Feather boas abound and by the final number the cast is dressed as a colourful range of exotic Antipodean fauna,

I did wonder before the show started how the famous outback scenes could be shown onstage, or indeed Priscilla herself, the ancient bus that the boys use for their journey. Yes, the spectacular scenery was only nominally present, but made up for with extra song and dance numbers. Priscilla herself is an ingenious piece of stage design, fully in keeping with the shows exuberance. Perhaps the biggest change from the film is that the Abba songs have all been replaced, and Kylie Minogue is the fantasy object of the boys adulation.

Jason Donovan is the headline name in the cast and delivers a fine central performance as Tick. Graham Weaver is electric as the high energy queen bitch Adam, but Richard Grieve's louche, world weary Bernadette steals the show. Three feathered divas, Emma Kingston, Ellie Leah and Laura Mansell, descend from on high throughout to give powerful oomph to the show numbers, and Frances Mayli McCann gives a startling new meaning to the phrase 'pop music' as the exotic dancer mail order wife.

At the end of the night the audience are up on their feet to applaud a great evening of unashamed vulgarity. Chekhov it isn't, fun it is.


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