PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT – THE MUSICAL Royal and Derngate, Northampton

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical is just the tonic we are all need after the last sixteenth months! It is the perfect cure for the Covid blues. It has been far too long since I last sang, applauded, and stamped my feet to a glorious feel-good musical packed full of brilliant toe-tapping classic pop songs performed by a magnificent cast. We are all in need of a good night out and Priscilla is an uplifting musical which gives us a great excuse to party.

The musical is based on the Oscar winning film of 27 years ago which tells the story of two drag queens and a transgender woman as they travel across the outback of Australia to put on a show in Alice Springs. The film was a surprise worldwide success and the stage adaptation easily transfers the fun, glitter, and emotive scenes of the movie to the stage.

The stunning tunes knits together the story of Mitzi, played with superb vigour by the hugely talented Edwin Ray, as he takes on the road trip at the request of his wife to not only put on the show but also meet his six year old son. Tick /Mitzi enlists the help and support of fellow performers Adam/Felicia (Nick Hayes) and Bernadette (played by the outstanding Miles Western) who set off to bring glitter and glamour to the Australian outback aboard an unreliable bus which they call  `Priscilla`.

Things don’t always go as planned on this road trip, including encounters with narrow-minded and bigoted locals. The darker, sometimes vicious disapproval and denial of the LGBTQ+ culture/community amongst folk in the outback is always bubbling close to the surface. The storyline does not ignore the prejudice, bigotry and intolerance which produces a much more profound and thoughtful audience response to what is an otherwise light storyline. The choice to choreograph and arrange the attack on Felicia & Priscilla is both important and potent bringing an important breather to the series of events.

Right from the opening bars the audience, including myself, were moving along, tapping our feet, and clapping our hands to the now familiar disco/club classics such `It’s Raining Men, `Don’t Leave Me This Way, Say A Little Prayer, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Go West and other great tunes. It was simply wonderful! The divas (Claudia Kariuki, Rosie Glossop, Aiesha Peace) belt out the hit songs with style & confidence. All of the stage costumes were outstanding, there was not a sequin out of place and the glitter balls sent a covering of pleasure and delight across the whole audience. A great show girls! You were brilliant.

I always loved the movie and was half expecting to be disappointed by the musical, but Priscilla has lost none of its glitter. It is a show which will make you smile, and we all need a little of that after what we have all been through. It is sometimes ridiculous, inevitably corny, beautifully camp, very silly, and very often predictable but it is fantastic! It’s a great excuse for a fun evening out, a party atmosphere, a singalong with the standing ovation at the end warranted.

Priscilla marks `Neighbours` star Jason Donovan’s first time as a producer, having performed in the cast of the original West End production and two subsequent UK tours. Gavin Kalin and Matthew Gale completes the production team.

PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT THE MUSICAL continues at Royal & Derngate all this week until Saturday 7th August.