PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT – Orchard Theatre, Dartford.
Priscilla Queen of the Desert is iconic. The film is a cult hit and the musical not far behind in its mass popularity. Since the west end production closed in 2011, this is the second UK touring production to do the rounds, with Duncan James headlining in the role of Tick.
For those unfamiliar with the premise, Priscilla follows the unusual journey of two drag queens and one transgender woman, who embark on a tour of the Australian desert as they head to Alice Springs to perform in a drag show for which they’ve secured a contract. Along the way, a catalogue of diastema and soul searching takes place, all punctuated with renditions of well known hits of the 70’s – 90’s.
Fortunately, the show doesn’t feel dated. The songs are all timeless hits and the ultimate message of acceptance and love, will never age. Stephan Elliot and Allan Scott’s book hits you over the head with sparkle and razzmatazz, delivering this message with force enough that could knock over even the most cynical observer.
It’s disappointing to see that some creative choices have been made that ultimately dampen the impact of several scenes. The biggest omission is the presence of the iconic shoe suspended above the audience, as Felicia belts out ‘Sempre Libera’. Logistical sacrifices have to be made whilst on tour of course, but without that seminal moment, this production falls short.That being said, if you were not familiar with the film or west end production, you would not notice anything amiss. There’s also no sense of geography; some visuals to punctuate the journey through the Australian outback would have given better context to each scene.
Duncan James has come a long way since his turn in Legally Blonde. Not only have his acting chops been honed, but he offers up a first rate Aussie accent. Believable in his vulnerability, he fits in well with his other two leading men. Adam Bailey’s Felicia is akin to an exuberant toddler on acid, yet somehow manages to convince us of his vulnerability. Simon Green as Bernadette, of course, received the biggest laughs, and is arguably the real heart of the show, demonstrated never better than through Bernadette’s burgeoning relationship with local labourer, Bob.
Slick, energetic, and as wilfully hilarious as it ever has been, Priscilla Queen of the Desert is still well worth it’s ticket price. If you’ve seen previous productions, you will notice an absence of detail, but it won’t detract from your overall enjoyment of this gloriously feel-good show.
By Caroline Cronin
25th April – 30th April 2016
Orchard Theatre, Dartford, DA1 1ED