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Shake your groove thing at Priscilla, Queen of the Desert!
Priscilla: Queen of the Desert The Musical
Member Name: Wickedinrock
Priscilla: Queen of the Desert The Musical
Advantages: great fun, fantastic songs and cast, a great night out with friends
Disadvantages: Not for youngsters - lots of swearing!
Tick (stage name Mitzi Mitosis) is "Sydney's premier drag queen" - dressing up as a women and miming other people's songs on the stage every night. When he gets a phone call from his ex-wife asking him to head to Alice Springs to finally meet his 6 year old son he decides he has had enough of the abuse he faces night after night and decides that a change of scenery might be what he needs. He persuades his recently widowed transsexual friend Bernadette to come along and to Bernadette's disappointment, Tick's younger friend Adam (stage name Felicia) whose aim in life it is to climb Ayr's Rock and sing a medley of Kylie songs. The trio embark on a road trip through the Australian outback in a bus they christen "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert", visiting towns such as Coober Pedy where the locals have never met a homosexual never mind a drag queen. When Priscilla breaks down in the middle of the desert, a mechanic called Bob comes to their rescue and joins in their adventure.
When I first saw the show the three lead roles were played as following:
Tick - Jason Donovan. Tick is a drag queen in Sydney who is desperate to get away for a while. He decides to travel up to 'the Alice' to see his ex-wife and son and perform in a show up there. Jason Donovan was okay in the role - a decent voice, quite believable as Tick but I found he was more about the novelty value. I saw Jason Donovan twice (before he was replaced with Ben Richards) and really enjoyed watching him but just because he is quite famous and it was exciting to see him! With him in the role they were able to make reference to Kylie as Charlene in Neighbours and himself as Scott (see quote below) which brought in the courtesy cheers and laughs. He also had a good relationship with the boy who played his son Benji and worked well with the other main characters.
Bernadette - Tony Sheldon. Bernadette is a recently widowed post-op transsexual who lives her life as a woman and hates people making reference to her past life as Ralph. She is a lot more mature than Tick and certainly Felicia who she clashes with on numerous occasions. Tony Sheldon is a theatre legend, playing the role when it opened in Sydney, continuing it in London and will be opening the show on Broadway next year. I saw Tony in role twice and he was incredible - certainly the best singer of the main characters and has fantastic stage presence.
Felicia (or Adam) - Oliver Thornton. Felicia is a young 'out an proud' transsexual who is obsessed with sex, clothes, bitching and Kylie! Oliver Thompson is amazing in the role and has been rewarded with many awards such as Best Supporting Actor in a Musical in the Broadway Awards and Theatrechoice awards which are both chosen by the public. He's also absolutely gorgeous and gets big cheers when he is seen without his top on!
Only Oliver Thornton from the original cast is still in the role. Tick is now played by Ben Richards who has picked up the role well and makes a more believable camp, gay guy. Don Gallagher is the current Bernadette and is just as good as Tony Sheldon. He has an excellent singing voice and good comic timing and has fit straight in. I've seen him twice now and he's my favourite cast member of everyone I've seen.
Notable mentions for the role of Bob and Cynthia. Bob is currently played by Ray Meagher who is most famous as Alf from Home and Away. In fact he is the reason that my friend Francesca and I went to see Priscilla for the fourth time! He was really funny in the role and had a good relationship with Bernadette on the stage. His voice was average but it didn't really matter because most people were just giggling away through his song and he got the hugest cheer of the night! Cynthia, Bob's mail order bride is played by Kanako Nakano who without doubt gives the most hilarious performance of a song in the show. She sings Pop Muzic with the aid of ping-pong balls in front of a crowd of drunk men, much to the dismay of her husband Bob. Another mention for a minor character, Shirley, a woman who works in the bar in Coober Pedy. She sings the song 'Action' without changing her facial expression once, she has boobs hanging down by her waist and a mullet. Absolutely brilliant - I looked around the audience and couldn't see a single person who was not in hysterics laughing!
The Divas are played by Emma Lindars, Portia Emare and Charlotte Riby. They are the most wonderfully talented group, all fantastic vocalists who sing some songs solo as well as together as a group. They descend from the skies to sing songs as a soundtrack and often sing when the drag queens are miming. The first time I went to see it, before Charlotte Riby joined, one of the Divas was played by Zoe Birkett who was in the first season of Pop Idol which was won by Will Young!
The songs are very similar to the ones used in the movie but have been updated in some cases for the stage. A fundamental change they have made for the stage adaptation is Felicia's (Adam's) dream to sing a medley of Kylie songs at the top of Ayr's Rock whereas in the movie his obsession is with Abba and King's Canyon. This was just to give the show an update and with Jason Donovan in a lead role, as mentioned earlier, it led to some jokes! A good proportion of the songs in the movie were the soundtrack and this issue is overcome in the theatre production with the use of the three 'Divas'. They descend from the skies at various points during the show to sing classic songs such as Downtown, I've Never Been to Me, I Will Survive and MacArthur Park.
Undoubtedly for me, the highlight of the show is Felicia on the roof of Priscilla singing Follie! Delirio Vano È Questo! (From La Traviata) dressed in silver spandex with hilarious, exaggerated gestures. The miming songs such as this and I've Never Been To Me are very funny, but the main characters can actually sing which is proved in songs such as I Say A Little Prayer, Both Sides Now and Hot Stuff. Another brilliant part of the show takes place in a small village in the outback where the locals sing 'Thank God I'm A Country Boy' where the cast find members of the audience to come up and dance on the stage with them. I've not been picked yet but have decided that next time I'm going to hang around the edges of the stalls so that I get chosen!!
"That's just what this country needs. A cock, in a frock, on a rock" (Bernadette when Felicia tells her of his dream to sing a Kylie medley on the top of Ayr's Rock).
Bernadette: "No, I'll join this conversation on the proviso that we stop bitching about people, talking about wigs, dresses, bust sizes, penises, drugs, night clubs, and bloody Kylie!"
Tick: "Doesn't give us much to talk about then, does it?"
"Now listen here, you mullet. Why don't you just light your tampon, and blow your box apart? Because it's the only bang you're ever gonna get, sweetheart!" (Bernadette to Shirley in Coober Pedy).
Bernadette: "Delinquents Kylie, Hot pants Kylie... she'll always be Charlene to me."
Tick: "I was always a Scott man myself!"
The costumes in the show are one of the things that make it so much fun and raise the most laughs. The film version won an Oscar for the costume design which shows how great the looks were. However, the musical gave the costume designers a new challenge of recreating some of the outlandish looks while going even more camp and over the top for the stage. Apparently, the budget for the film was $15,000 Australian dollars whereas the budget for the theatre production was $1.5 million which gave the designers much more room for creativity!
When I leave the show that is what sticks in my head - the image of Felicia and Tick walking into a bar in the middle of the outback wearing full on drag with Tick in a dress made of flip-flops. The hats made of mops which then become pom-pops are another favourite but the ultimate group costume moment for me is the funeral scene! Anyone who has seen the show will know what I'm talking about but if the show is anything to be believed, drag queens have the most interesting funerals around!
The wide range of costumes is showcased brilliantly in the closing moments where all the cast come out to take a bow. We have ostriches, iguanas (possibly?!), kangaroos, koalas and finally, the three main characters in stunning dresses which end up forming the Sydney Opera House!
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is currently showing at the Palace Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, central London. The nearest tube stations are Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus which are just a 5 minute walk away and very accessible from all over London. The Palace Theatre was built in the 1880s and has hosted productions such as Les Miserables, The Woman in White, Spamalot before Priscilla opened in March 2009.
The theatre is quite big with stalls, dress circle, upper circle and then a balcony at the top. I was really surprised to see that the capacity is only 1400 whereas other theatres in London such as the Apollo Victoria (2208) and Drury Lane Theatre (2220) which I have visited recently are so much bigger yet have fewer tiers. The Palace Theatre is quite narrow which gives quite an intimate feel which makes you feel like you are part of the Priscilla party!
Price and availability
When Priscilla first came out I had to wait ages to go and see it because the prices were so high. I have now seen it four times because it has become one of the shows which do a 'ticket for a tenner' on lastminute.com. There is an additional £3 to pay as a booking fee but £13 for a theatre ticket is fantastic value considering you can pay that price for a cinema ticket in central London. The £10 seats are 'best available upper circle' and can really differ depending really on luck. I have had seats on the front row of the grand circle which were fantastic, but the third time I went with a large group from work and we had the back row of the balcony with restricted viewing. One person was sat behind a big pillar, one had to stand up to see over the person in front and two of us sat in the aisle just to get a better view, until we were told off by ushers. I don't know how they even spotted us so far back!
Priscilla is showing Monday - Saturday at 7.30pm with matinee performances at 2.30pm on Thursdays and Saturdays. They are on sale until 28 May 2011 at the moment and hopefully the run will be extended. The website http://www.priscillathemusical.com/ currently sells tickets for £65, £45, £25, £20 and really, what you get is what you pay for. I would strongly recommend going for the deals when they are on, unless you want to go on the most popular night, Saturday, when it really doesn't matter - you will always pay the top prices! The running time is 2 hours 40 minutes with a 20 minute interval where they sell ice creams and drinks etc.
A fantastic West End show for a fun night out with friends. The cast are excellent in the roles and the costumes, songs and some hilarious moments make for wonderful viewing and a great night out. It's a big spectacle of a performance, more than any other show I've seen and it's one that people seem to go back to over and over again. It has the audience laughing from start to finish but also has strong messages about love, acceptance and ignorance. If only everyone could be like Bob! 
Go see this wonderful show! 5/5!!
(Have also posted this review on Ciao)
Summary: A fantastic fun night out !
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