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Priscilla - Queen of the Desert (Tour - Oxford)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
I remember seeing the original movie when it first came out back in the mid 90s - and it remains of my favourite films. Having missed seeing the West End production (due to snow), I was delighted when I heard Oxford was going to be one of the first stops of what is going to be an extensive UK Tour. Perhaps it was this heightened sense of expectation that left me ever-so-slightly underwhelmed as I left the theatre.

There is no doubting the appeal of the show. It has some outstanding costumes and the music is a joy. It is a real camp-fest - and there is nothing wrong with that. However the limitations of touring have resulted in a great loss of personality to the production as a whole.

Firstly, and possibly most importantly, the title character is sadly lacking. Now that may be a strange thing to say about a bus - but it is true. Having seen photographs of the Australian and London productions, I am aware of how it was originally conceived. The touring bus is a pale shadow of that. It is essentially a tubular framework with some LCD screens - effective enough but really lacks any essence of being a bus. Simlarly the La Traviata moment where, in the film, Felicia rides on top of the bus in a giant glittered shoe with fabric billowing behind her really has no impact at all when the stage show has her sitting on top of a step ladder. Yes, there are things that are difficult to pull off when touring so widely - but a better solution could - and should - have been found.

There are many positives to this production. The performances of Richard Grieve (Bernadette) and Graham Weaver (Adam/Felicia) are top-class - echoing but never copying the celluloid originals. The ensemble work incredibly hard and with great flair. Praise must also go to the wardrobe department who have to help the cast with some fiendishly fast costume changes!

Of course, many in the audience are their to see Jason Donovan as Tick. I cannot help but wonder whether he was slightly under the weather as his performance was somewhat flat. Only occasionally did we see the necessary flashes of energy that his character needs to display throughout. His less critical fans were on their feet at the end - but for me, it was not up to the standard I was expecting from such a seasoned performer in the role.

So yes, I was disappointed. I think it is a great show given an adequate production. It has enormous heart and it has the potential to move you as well as entertain you. It is thankfully still worth going to see.