[Image: Paul Coltas]
Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Opera House, Manchester
Until Saturday 29 August, 2015
With the likes of the Birdcage and Canal Street leading the way as some of the city’s go to nightlife hotspots, drag culture has become such a huge part of Manchester’s identity that it seems more than fitting for Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott’s hugely-succesful musical to return to the city for the third time in as many years.
Based on the Academy Award-winning 1994 movie of the same name, the plot follows drag queen Tick (Mitzi) and Adam (Felicia) and transgender Bernadette – on a road-trip from Sydney to Alice Springs aboard the eponymous bus, Priscilla, with Tick leading them on a journey to the geographic centre of Australia to fulfil a promise to his estranged wife and meet his now eight-year-old son, Benji.
Yes the show is packed full of award-winning costumes and almost every classic dance floor hit you could possibly want, however, when we strip away all the glitz and glamour and actually look at the content underneath, we aren’t really left with much more than a thin plot filled to the brim with predictable jokes, non-stop bitchiness and endless cliches.
Thankfully the performances help to elevate any plot weaknesses. Simon Green as the classy Bernadette is undoubtedly the finest actor of the three, delivering his lines with emotion and timing each joke to perfection, though alongside the others he does suffer slightly with the choreography. Adam Bailey’s screamingly camp Felicia becomes a little too much if I’m honest and rests too much on cliche and stereotype, however Bailey is a strong, charismatic performer and sings and dances with impressive skill, though he does have a tendency to gabble and throw away some key jokes. Poster boy Duncan James is obviously the main box-office draw with the production and once the deafening audience screams die down we see that his performance as the surrogate ‘everyman’ Tick is very confident and nicely rendered.
There are good performances too from Philip Childs as Bob and Callum Macdonald as Miss Understanding, however show-stealers Lisa-Marie Holmes, Laura Mansell and Catherine Mort as the three ‘divas’ (who perform the majority of the numbers which our central trio lip-synch too) are the real standouts in a very strong ensemble company.
With slick direction from Simon Phillips, outstanding choreography from Andrew Hallsworth and the late Ross Coleman, lavish costume design from Lizzy Gardiner and Tim Chappel and top notch production design from Brian Thomson (not to mention a full creative team to die for), Priscilla is ultimately a fun, upbeat, feel-good show that will have even the most conservative theatregoer tapping their feet and clapping along. See it at least once!
A few technical hitches and microphone errors arose at last night’s press night, but were thankfully only few and quickly addressed.
Please Note: With its frequent coarse language, parental guidance is advised for those 15 years and under.
Running Time: 2 hours 35 minutes, including one 20-minute interval.
Final Performance at the Opera House, Manchester: Saturday 29 August, 2015.
For more information and to book tickets, please Click Here.