Thursday, 18 February 2016

REVIEW: Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Bright and bold; it’s a real slap in the face musical!

Bursting on stage with drag queens aplenty, Priscilla Queen of the Desert doesn’t take you on a journey but rather the ride of your life in a show that flies faster than the speed of light. Brash and garish in style and colour, this is also a show with real heart and warmth largely to some stellar performances and strong ensemble work.

The show is a visual treat starting with a bang and plenty of disco balls, neon rainbows and big hair while the memorable and well-loved songs keep the show slick and never gives the audience a moments rest.

With the story clearly set from the beginning, you are immediately immersed in the world of drag queen Australia as we follow Tick, Bernadette and Adam on board Priscilla trekking to Tick’s most important gig yet; the chance to finally meet his young son.

It is the moment that he finally meets 6 year old Benji that really tugs at the heartstrings and provides the show with real depth and genuine love. A tender scene towards the end of the show when Tick (Darren Day) reads his son a bedtime story for the first time is a stand out moment and provides an important gear change.

It is this moment that really justifies Day’s inclusion in this very strong cast and he demonstrates a real maturity in Act 2 particularly. At times he seems a touch under rehearsed and unsure of some of the dance moves, but his strong singing voice is rich enough in tone to whip the female audience up into a frenzy.

The three Divas are stunning; combining pitch perfect vocals and flying (no mean feat); they provide some real guts and attitude to the numbers proving it’s not all about the men! Julie Yammanee enjoys a fierce cameo as the livewire Cynthia which only endears us further to long-suffering husband Bob, played faithfully by Philip Childs.

The star of this show is Simon Green as the glamorous and classy Bernadette. The character is the perfect foil to the zany Adam and Green portrays her as a real mother figure for her fellow sisters. It’s a poised, sophisticated performance and everyone acting around him revels in the benefit. Bernadette is the glue of the trio and Green proves to be the glue of this company too.

For all of Priscilla’s camp exuberance, this is a high quality production with a strong and serious message at its core. It’s a story of acceptance, friendship and for letting go and trying things out and is a message that transcends time, place and characters. This is not a story about drag queens and cheesy music; this is a story about love and tolerance. And Priscilla tells it perfectly with a smile on its face and plenty of sass.

Review by Andy Edmeads 


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