CREAGH/CARR REVIEW: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

In the Creagh/Carr Review, seasoned hackette Bev Creagh and flamboyant reporter Stewart Carr give their definitive opinions of Priscilla Queen of the Desert - the Musical at Milton Keynes Theatre.

CREAGH SAYS ... From the huge red phalllic lipstick mounted suggestively on the stage at the start of the show to the raucous final number, this is one raunchy ride covering the story of three drag queens - two old, one up-and-coming, so to speak - reviving their careers in the unlikely setting of the Australian outback.

Priscilla is their equally aged tour bus which almost scuppers their comeback by breaking down in the bush. But rough diamond Bob comes to the rescue, accompanied by his sexy Thai bride Cynthia. She tries to steal the limelight in an eye-popping routine with ping pong balls before Bob falls for the gracious charms of principal drag queen Bernadette.

And while Jason Donovan (who plays Mitzi) is the big name in the cast, it is Bernadette - Simon Green - who steals the show with his fine-tuned performance.

The film quickly became a cult classic and while this show is all singing, all dancing and has the feel good factor in spades, it also works on another more serious level - exposing the internal insecurities and complexities that can haunt the gay community.

But the story is told with humour and panache and when Mitzi reveals he has a wife and child, there’s a joyously happy ending.

The production is peppered with popular songs that take on deeper meanings - like True Colours and I’ve Never Been to Me.

And last but not least - the three magnificent singing Divas who spend much of the show suspended above the action in their curious ice cream cone wigs.

It’s a blast.

CARR SAYS ... A full dollop of pink, glittery schmuk is on the cards with Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – The Musical, I have to say.

As a gay man, a fan of gay bars, of tough-as-nails drag queens, of the movie – I didn’t like this show.

The film famously tells the story of three drag queens on a roadtrip from Sydney to Alice Springs, travelling on a rickety tour bus “Priscilla” through a vast Australian outback that’s remote and barren in every way possible.

To survive, the trio play dive bars in the desert, stepping over broken glass on smokey stages and the threat of real danger is never far away.

But what we have with this show is a High School Musical-esque cheesy sing-along, a kind of straight person’s caricature of a big gay adventure, with pink electric fairy lights to boot.

Famous Aussie Jason Donovan takes to drag like the She-Hulk, stomping about in gruesome platform heels with the most unfeminine gait.

He plays a gay guy (Mitzi) preparing to meet his ex-wife and young son for the first time, but he just didn’t pull it off for me.

Much better was his sidekick, experienced transwoman Bernadette (Simon Green) who added some much needed gravitas to the show.

Younger debutante Adam (Adam Bailey) was at times unbearably twinky and caricatured, but part of that is the character.

At times funny, at other times not – the audience’s non-stop tittering makes the show a ripping success either way.

Flash, colourful and camp, Priscilla Queen of the Desert plays at Milton Keynes Theatre until February 6. See here for tickets