Review Round-up: Priscilla’s Drag Queens Reign
Adapted from the 1994 Oscar-winning cult film which starred Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce and Terence Stamp, Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical had its world premiere in Sydney in October 2006. Original cast member Tony Sheldon makes his West End debut as transsexual Bernadette, who together with drag queens Mitzi (Donovan) and Felicia (Adam) embarks on a journey of discovery across the Australian outback.
The soundtrack features a host of dance-floor classics including "I Love the Nightlife", "I Will Survive", “Go West”, "Finally", “Don’t Leave Me This Way”, “Hot Stuff”, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and a Kylie Minogue medley.
The stage musical has a book by Allan Scott and Stephan Elliot (writer/director of the film). It’s directed by Simon Phillips, choreographed by Ross Coleman and designed by Brian Thomson (who also conceived the on-stage bus), with costumes by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner, lighting by Nick Schlieper, sound by Michael Waters and make-up by Cassie Hanlon.
All-told, Priscilla fared better with overnight critics than many of its 'jukebox musical' forebears, though there’s no real consensus, with star ratings from two up to five adorning this morning's papers. Critics generally fall into one of two 'camps': those who welcomed the show’s “loud, lewd and lavish” attitude, and those who viewed it as an overly “synthetic spectacle”. There was general agreement when it came to the performances of the leads, particularly with regards to the “touching presence” of Tony Sheldon as Bernadette, and Jason Donovan who, if slightly “underpowered” for some, brings the “right air of paternal longing” to Mitzi/Tick. But the real star of the show for most is Lizzy Gardiner and Tim Chappel's elaborate costumes – described by The Times’ Benedict Nightingale as “the most outrageous … I have yet encountered”.
- by Theo Bosanquet