Priscilla Queen of the Desert (review). A bonza show from Down Under

Priscilla Queen Of The Desert. Photo by Paul Coltas.Priscilla Queen Of The Desert. Photo by Paul Coltas.
Priscilla Queen Of The Desert. Photo by Paul Coltas.

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Get a shot of Australian sunshine with tickets to see the oh so camp and cheesy feelgood musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert which opened at Milton Keynes Theatre this week.

There’s nothing to beat this upbeat and quirky tale about drag queens on a road trip through the Outback.

Priscilla is fearless, not so subtly hiding its anti-homophobic message beneath a veneer of glitter and disco.

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The soundtrack includes pretty much every gay anthem ever written and then some; the costumes are to die for and the story is so uplifting that you’ll be walking out at the end of the show with a big smile on your face. ‘Cilla is entertainment at its very best.

Richard Grieve as BernadetteRichard Grieve as Bernadette
Richard Grieve as Bernadette

Casting everyone’s favourite stage, screen and pop star, Jason Donovan, is a real coup. He plays Tick who discovered late in life that he was gay. He left his wife and son to work as a drag artiste, Mitzi, in Sydney’s Cockatoo Club.

One day Tick gets a call from his ex who is running a casino in Ayers Rock. It’s about time you met your son, she says. Come and put on a show.

So he leaves the security of the drag capital of the world, in a battered old camper van called Priscilla, for a trip with a difference.

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He takes with him transsexual friend Bernadette and the waspish newcomer at the club, Adam, whose sole aim is to stand on the top of the sacred Ayers Rock in full drag and belt out a Kylie medley.

Their adventures into un-chartered territory, where men are expected to wear trousers and not sequinned miniskirts, will have you equally laughing and sobbing throughout.

Priscilla is outrageous, thought-provoking, heart-warming and just a little bit naughty.

In between the campness and kitsch there are moments that pull you up and stop the laughter in its tracks. Stamping out prejudice has come a long way but the message hasn’t quite reached the weird and wonderful-sounding backwaters found in the remote corners of Oz.

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Richard Grieve’s performance as the elegant former showgirl Bernadette is extraordinarily moving. She’s feisty, but underneath lies a person looking for love and security.

The troubled Adam (Graham Weaver) is a real attention seeker. As Felicia he pushes boundaries and buttons, landing the group in trouble more than once.

But all eyes fall on the diminutive Donovan. He overplays the campness a little but the scenes he shares with his son are deeply touching.

The songs are powerfully sung with superb backing from The Three Divas - Emma Kingston, Ellie Leah and Lauran Mansell - who fly in and hover above the stage for their numbers. Strange but true.

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The costumes throughout are whacky and the finale, when the cast appear dressed as various animals of Australia, is one of the oddest I’ve seen but it all makes up for a tremendous night of fun.

Not to be missed.

Priscilla is on until Saturday. For tickets call the box office 0844 871 7652 or go online