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

I Will Survive - Priscilla Queen of the Desert - The Musical - Photo credit Paul ColtasPriscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical is based on the Australian 1994 film The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. After opening in Sydney in 2006, the show premiered in London’s West End in 2009 where is played for two and a half years at the Palace Theatre. Since its closure in 2011 it has been touring around the UK and the latest production hit Wimbledon last night starring Priscilla regular Jason Donovan.

Two drag queens and a transsexual accept a cabaret job performing in Alice Springs (the centre of Australia). They have two weeks to travel almost 2,000 miles from Sydney, but how will they get there? On a big pink bus of course! Stopping off along the beaten track, they encounter towns that are less and less accepting of who they are as they get further inland. Luckily when their bus breaks down they meet mechanic Bob who accompanies them on the rest of the journey, falling for ex lay girl Bernadette along the way.

This touring production is a cut version from the West End show with a different ending which leaves the audience to piece together what happened for themselves. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the original ending wasn’t quite as fabulous as the build up to it. Other parts like Felicia’s performance of Follie! Delirio vano è questo! Sempre libera (from La traviata), which is usually performed on top of the bus in a large shoe is performed on the stage looking a little confusing as to where the shoe has come from and why it is suddenly there.

For a touring show that has already been running for seven weeks around the UK, it felt very under rehearsed with several lines stumbled upon and lip syncing out of time. Jason Donovan has played the role of Tick for many years on and off but in this production his vocals were flat in places and his acting felt halfhearted. Simon Green as Bernadette was good in the role but looked much younger than the old transsexual we usually see play this role. Adam Bailey, as the flamboyant Felicia was particularly good, bouncing around the stage in skimpy outfits and giving the best vocals in the show.

Priscilla is a camp tastic show with more than 30 dance floor favourites like I Will Survive, Go West and of course a Kylie medley thrown in for good measure. The ensemble give an enthusiastic and colourful performance and the casino performance scene (probably the trickiest to execute in the show) is done flawlessly. However, judging this show on its production values it is sadly in the worst state I have seen it. Members of the backstage crew can be seen during quick changes and it really feels like it needs some TLC and a good spruce up. Nonetheless it is still a brilliant show and the packed out Monday night audience at the New Wimbledon Theatre sang along to every word. If you’ve never seen Priscilla Queen of the Desert then get yourself along this week. You’ll certainly have a lot of fun but sadly it’s just not the show it once was.

Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Paul Coltas