Bristol Hippodrome theatre review: Priscilla Queen of the Desert, the musical

Vivienne Kennedy reviews Priscilla Queen of the Desert playing at Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 11th June

It’s clear from the very first notes of the overture, when a plethora of disco balls first go into overdrive (overture, overdrive, see what I did there?), that Priscilla Queen of the Desert is going to be flashy, trashy and all kinds of good.

Based on the 1994 film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and first performed almost a decade ago in October 2006, the show tells the story of a bus, Priscilla, and her colourful, larger-than-life passengers – ageing, transsexual showgirl Bernadette and drag queens Tick (Mitzi) and Adam (Felicia).

They travel from the bright lights of the city through outback towns such as Broken Hill, Coober Pedy and Alice Springs before the performance of a life time atop Ayers Rock, which they wish had a stair lift. Meanwhile their audience enjoys a whistle-stop tour of some of the finest hits of the disco era – the wonderful Macarthur Park being my personal favourite.

With 500 costumes, 200 hats, 100 wigs, 150 pairs of shoes, and a heck of a lot of mascara, these “girls” don’t travel light and that’s not all that’s in their baggage – Tick alone having a secret wife and as yet unmet son on his mind.

Duncan James, Adam Bailey and Simon Green as Tick, Adam and Bernadette all delivered befittingly fabulous performances. They are aided and abetted by the talents of the three divas, Lisa-Marie Holmes, Laura Mansell and Catherine Mort, and a fantastic ensemble whose rendition of Go West makes the Village People look positively straight.

Praise also to local lad Gabriel Todesco-Bond who played Tick’s son Benji last night, looking particularly cute in a kangaroo costume for the finale – sorry Gabriel, but it had to be said.

The show is not without it’s darker moments, illustrating prejudices against transsexuals, bisexuals and homosexuals that really should feel totally dated by now rather than, sadly, only too relevant.

That said, overall it’s a delightfully bright and colourful night out and camper than a row of tents that have been decorated with sequinned rainbows (which reminds me that Colour My World came a very close second when I was choosing my favourite song).

I loved it. You might too. Why don’t you get some tickets and find out!

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Photo: Paul Coltas


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