Priscilla Queen Of The Desert is the much loved cult classic film about three Australian drag queens who buy a clapped out old bus, paint it fluorescent pink and attempt to drive it 3,000km from Sydney to Alice Springs, in the centre of Australia, to perform at a run down casino.

As they drive deeper and deeper out of Sydney, into smaller and smaller towns, they realise just how safe they were in the bubble of major cities. Because in run down old towns like Broken Hill and Coober Pedy, drag queens, homosexuals and transgenders are not something these folk have ever seen before and they certainly don’t want to start now. It is a story of love, acceptance and friendship.

In fairness to the show, the Parisian audience were up on their feet and dancing by the interval and were clearly having a wonderful night out, dancing along to the camp classics like Material Girl, Go West and True Colors. But having seen various incarnations of this musical over the years, this version feels very much like a group of people in their living room putting on a show. There is no heart, no passion in the choreography and sadly very little talent on stage.

What is interesting about this production is the use of video screens at the back of the stage to give a real sense of driving through rural Australia. However, they aren’t particularly well created and the great comedy moments that on stage props have created in other productions around the world, are lost here in the projections.

What cheapens this show more than anything is the prerecorded backing tracks used instead of a live band. The entire ensemble (listed as ‘dancers’ in the programme) pretend to sing along but are far too in-tune for it to be live compared the the vocals coming out of the main cast who do attempt to sing live but sadly probably would have been better lip synching the entire show. Whilst the songs are performed in English, the performers make no attempt to mimic the sound of the original songs and very much keep a French accent. I don’t imagine an Edith Piaf show being acceptably staged in London if the actor sang the French songs with an English accent and so I don’t see why the French performers couldn’t annunciate the songs correctly.

Harsh perhaps and I’ll stress again that the audience were clearly loving every second of the show. But rather than pay €90 for a ticket to see this, I’d suggest booking yourself a return trip on the Eurostar, buying a cheap ticket to a West End matinee musical and then coming back. It won’t cost you any more and I guarantee you’ll see a better quality show.

Reviewed by West End Wilma

REVIEW: Priscilla Queen of the Desert (New Wimbledon Theatre) ★★★


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