Priscilla Queen of the Desert 2015, Edinburgh Playhouse, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
David Ian Productions and Ambassador Theatre Group in association with Nullarbor Productions and MGM ON STAGE
Book by Stephan Elliott and Alan Scott, Simon Phillips (director), Stephen 'Spud' Murphy (musical arrangements, direction & supervision), Ross Coleman & Andrew Hallsworth (choreographers), Stephen 'Spud' Murphy & Charlie Hull (orchestrations), Brian Thomson (bus concept & production designer), Tim Chappel & Lizzy Gardner (costume designers).
Jason Donovan (Tick/Mitzi), Simon Green (Bernadette), Adam Bailey (Adam/Felicia), Lisa-Marie Holmes, Laura Mansell, Catherine Mort (Divas), Callum MacDonald (Miss Understanding), Naomi Slights (Marion), Ricky Lee Loftus (Farrah), Karen Dunbar (Shirley), Gavin Mitchell (Bob), Julie Yammanee (Cynthia).
Running time

Priscilla ain’t the only Queen in the desert, as three go gallus in Alice.

An outline of Oz is smeared in pink lipstick across the stage curtain and pink footlights bedazzle below. The auditorium is noisy, but the party atmosphere shifts up a notch as the orchestra gets going with the overture and a couple of glitter balls throw a million pops of light spinning all over the theatre.

As the curtain lifts for The Three Divas, backed by the Company, to belt out Petula Clark’s Downtown, cheers erupt as Jason Donavon is spotted among the crowd. Throwing off a respectable overcoat he stands, unabashed, in sheer tights and sparkly panties and makes a startling transformation into his female alter-ego, drag queen Mitzi, while the audience watch with rising anticipation.

Feathers and falsies, leather and whips, and an over-abundance of outrageous costumes that any self-respecting pantomime dame would kill for, provide the visual thrills to match the gloriously cheesy sound-track that is rooted in the pop-diva hit sensations of the 1980s. In true drag-queen style these are, more often than not, lip-synched, while every word is punctuated with exaggerated gestures and every long, warbling note accompanied by the requisite violent trembling of the bottom lip. Gaudy, glamorous, glitzy and bitchy, with one-liners as dry as their desert location, all delivered with pizzazz and panache and a perfectly incongruous Aussie drawl.

The plot is thin and hardly matters, but as we follow the two female impersonators and one transsexual on their journey across the desert to Alice, in Priscilla - the impossibly lush bus – pathos, tenderness and warmth draw the central characters into your heart as the vulnerabilities lying beneath the flamboyant, flinty front are laid bare.

Adam Bailey, clearly what’s known in the business as a triple threat, is fabulous as Felicia – 'the cock in a frock on a rock' - and Simon Green plays transsexual Bernadette with a grace and elegance worthy of an old-fashioned movie star.

Jason Donovan as Tick – aka Mitzi – pitches it just right as the glue that knits this trio together, resisting the urge to camp it up, managing to play gay and keep it real.

'As gay as Gloria Gaynor’s back catalogue' - in every sense of the word – it’s a scream.

16th December– 2nd January 2016