It’s almost twenty years since The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert opened in the cinema, and almost as long ago since I saw it. I don’t remember liking it very much at the time, well not enough to watch again. So, you might say that I was never going to be much of a fan of the stage show, but to my surprise I liked it – a lot.
Obviously the stage version can’t compete with the cinematography of the Australian outback. But what it lacks in sweeping scenery it makes up for in costumes, all 500 of them. How they all fitted in one big pink bus is the conundrum of the night. There are feathers galore and at one point the stage fills with men dressed as giant cup cakes, holding umbrellas over the lit candles on their heads while dancing in the rain. The mind boggles.
Inside this garish spectacle the original story of three drag queens on a road trip across Australia to find friendship, love and reunite with family is still there. However, it doesn’t seem to take itself nearly as seriously as the film, and while some of the characterisation may lose its poignancy because of that, the end result is a lot more fun. This is more about the frocks than the friendship and it doesn’t pretend otherwise. We still have tender moments where Tick (Jason Donovan) meets his son, and ageing transexual, Bernadette (Richard Grieve) finally finds love, but there is always a sparkly star-cloth, disco ball, and thumping 70s tune ready to lighten the mood and transport the audience back to feel-good land.
The Manchester dates kick off the national tour, and the producers have chosen a star cast to take it on the road. Dovovan is a seasoned hand as Tick, having played the role in the original West End production. Graham Weaver, who very aptly plays the eye-candy, Felicia with a ‘body by Baywatch and a mouth by Crimewatch’, also reprises his West End role, while Grieve (Emmerdale’s Jonny Foster) effortlessly swaps his West End casting from Tick to Bernadette.
A special mention also needs to go to the floating divas, Emma Kingston, Ellie Leah and Laura Mansell, who in sensational voice hold the show together with hits like It’s Raining Men, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, and Hot Stuff.
Yes, it’s vulgar and at times the acerbic wit of the three pals can be very crude, but I think that most of the audience go in knowing what to expect and leave uplifted. There is so much energy and colour on stage that it would be hard not to.
Priscilla Queen of the Desert is at the Opera House, Manchester from 09 February 2013 to 23 February 2013.