Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Lichfield Operatic Society's staging of Australian musical road comedy is a resounding hit: bold, bright and bursting with cheeky charm.
The Oscar-winning 1994 film will be familiar to many but just in case you are one of the uninitiated, ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ is the story of two drag queens and a transgender woman making an epic journey from Sydney to Alice Springs to put on what they hope will be the show of a lifetime. Packed with more dance-floor favourites than you can throw a feather boa at, it’s a show which feels like a party.
Theatre is uniquely placed to shine a light on important issues without moralising and musical theatre can do it brilliantly: with a glitterball. ‘Priscilla’, on one level, is an exploration of gender identity, intolerance, homophobia, transphobia and prejudice. Not a thematic list which screams party, really. But it’s also about love, family, friendship, acceptance and embracing life in all its diverse glory. This warm-hearted and generous production, directed by James Pugh, is perfectly pitched: hard-hitting and shocking moments are never heavy-handed but they land powerfully. Serious themes are worn lightly and the overriding mood is one of joyful celebration.
A glorious trio of queens with cracking voices and crazy costumes hold the show together in drag-tastic style. Patrick Jervis brings a tenderness to estranged father Tick and rises to the challenge of the upbeat musical numbers as his drag queen persona Mitzi Mitosis. Poise is nicely balanced with an acid tongue in Pete Beck’s performance as Bernadette, an ageing trans woman who is on her own journey to find love in the outback. Adam Gregory’s young drag queen Felicia Jollygoodfellow is sass personified in an outrageous performance, the highlight of which has to be a lip-synced rendition of Verdi’s Sempre Libera from a pink glitter high heel mounted on their trusty tour bus, nicknamed Priscilla.
Musical direction (David Easto) and choreography (Charlotte Jervis) is slick and pacey, bringing the large cast and ensemble together with high energy and never failing to keep the audience along for the bus ride. Rapid set changes are seamless and the wardrobe team must break some kind of record for the number of costume changes. Expertly supported by a full live orchestra, this is a show full of glitz and glamour with a perfect party playlist which includes Go West, It’s Raining Men, I Will Survive, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Boogie Wonderland and I Love the Nightlife.
Harmonising beautifully and sporting a dazzling array of costumes, three divas (Chelsea Regan, Lauren Orgill and Vanessa Blake) weave the numbers together with winning smiles. Connor Brooks’ hilarious performance of the Tina Turner hit What’s Love Got To Do With It, as drag queen Miss Understanding, sets the tone for the rest of the show. And there’s a moment of filthy comedy gold involving ping pong balls which has nothing to do with table tennis thanks to a gleefully cheeky performance from Shu Sachdev.
This joyful production is just what’s needed to lift the spirits and embrace royalty of a different kind. Long Live the Queens!
Priscilla Queen of the Desert is playing at Lichfield Garrick Theatre from 20th to 24th September 2022. Book now to avoid disappointment.