Priscilla Queen of the Desert sets out to make you love her. She’s done this in her previous incarnations as a film and West End musical. So how does this new touring production fare, having just kicked off on her new road trip at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre?
The score is, of course, bullet proof, this being a juke box musical featuring the cheesiest and most sparkly pop tunes you can think of – Boogie Wonderland, Don’t Leave Me This Way, Hot Stuff. But Priscilla has always had more depth. It’s a show about acceptance and tolerance. Sure, it wears its heart on its sleeve – unapologetically. But the message, whilst crystal clear, is handled with just the right touch so it doesn’t feel as though it’s being rammed down your throat.
The story concerns three drag queens who find themselves on a journey across Australia on their tour bus named Priscilla, as one of them – Tick, played by Joe McFadden – sets out to see his young son. On their way they discover more about themselves, what other people think of them and what really matters in their three different worlds.
Along with McFadden the other leads, Miles Western as Bernadette and Nick Hayes as Adam, have a complete ball. They seemed a little nervous at the start but soon warmed up. Nick Hayes in particular is bright, breezy and loveable. The story is punctuated by a trio of Divas in a sort of Greek chorus and they were outstanding – a real highlight whenever they appeared.
The eponymous star of the show, Priscilla the bus, is used inventively as she is transformed into various bits of scenery throughout the journey. My only wish was that she had a little more sparkle about her.
The dancing was excellent and the whole show was brought to life by a brilliant band. Add in numerous references to Kylie in this Jason Donovan co-produced production and you have a real crowd pleaser. The audience on the night I saw it were enthused and applauding from the start and left, as the show intends, uplifted and having had a little joy passed to them.