The New Wimbledon Theatre, a tram ride away, is staging a star-spangled musical again, with Jason Donovan leading the cast in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The flamboyant show had DIANA ECCLESTON shed a tear
In the nine years since it started, the programme tells us, the show has become the most successful Australian musical of all time. Frankly, I can’t think of any others.
But it is certainly a fabulous feast of excess and exuberance, glitz and glamour.
Beneath the frivolous surface lies the tender back stories of the three main characters.
Tick is a drag queen in Sydney who gets a call from his estranged wife asking him to visit the young son, Benji, who he has hardly known, and put on a show at the casino which she runs.
His chum Adam, another drag queen who performs as Felicia, wangles the battered old van and along with transvestite friend Bernadette, they set off on their eventful journey.
Jason Donovan reprises the role of Tick, which he played in the first West End production in 2009. I know his fans will hate me for saying so, but he does seem a bit old for the role now and can’t equal the huge energy levels of the zippy young ensemble dancers.
But he is still likeable, and his gentle and sincere “Always On My Mind” duet with Benji brought a tear to my eye.
Adam Bailey is the naughty, wild Adam/Felicia, who flirts with danger. And Simon Green is an elegant delight as Bernadette, a role which won Terence Stamp awards in the movie version which preceded the stage show.
The campness continues with a trio of divas who dangle high above the stage on wires and belt out many of the great numbers which make up the score: a catalogue of disco hits and girlie anthems from “Downtown” and “I Love the Nightlife” to “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “I Will Survive”.
But the stars of the show are the costumes, eye-boggling creations which will colour your world completely crazy.
Each production (of which there have been seven worldwide to date) requires 500 costumes, 200 hats, 100 wigs and 150 pairs of shoes – surely worthy of the Guinness Book of Records?
So take a bow multi-award winning designers Lizzy Gardiner and Tim Chappel plus the wardrobe crew who take care of them all on tour.
I’ve been totally Priscilla-ed by this sunshine riot of gaudy gorgeousness.
- The show continues at New Wimbledon Theatre until Saturday October 10
- Diana Eccleston, pictured right, is a Croydon resident and an experienced arts and theatre reviewer for local newspapers
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