If you’re looking for a truly star-dazzling, spectacular show to watch this week, Northampton has all the glitz and glam you’re looking for as Priscilla Queen of the Desert has strutted all the way to Royal & Derngate this week!
For me, a truly overwhelming and emotional experience returning to the theatre for the first time since February 2020 – it felt like forever and I feel this was the perfect first show to return and watch for it’s heart, emotion, and astonishing array of feathers, sparkles and upbeat soundtrack!
If you don’t know, Priscilla Queen of the Desert is based on the 1994 Australian film of the same name and tells the story of three drag queens, who get a contract to perform a drag show at a resort in Alice Springs, a resort town in the remote Australian desert – of which they travel down inside their dusty, broken down, turned sparkly pink bus, christened Priscilla!
As the story unfolds, the three friends come to the forefront of a comedy of errors, encountering a number of strange characters, as well as incidents of homophobia, while widening comfort zones and finding new horizons – all whilst offering a star-studded cast & ensemble as well as a soundtrack of well-known pop songs.
If you know how funny the film is, expect the musical on stage to be hilarious and full of innuendos!
The opening number “It’s Raining Men”, spoke volumes on how the rest of the show was going to play out – big, bold, and bright non-stop parade of dance numbers that will get you toe-tapping away in the aisles.
The set made the Derngate stage look much bigger than anticipated – I felt like I was coming to watch a full drag show somewhere in Vegas – I was completely transported and immersed in every aspect and set change that I glanced on.
The costumes are under the careful eye of Sabrina Cuniberto as Costume Supervisor and whatever she’s doing; it’s working because every single detail in every costume was brilliantly executed – I’ve never seen so much colour, so many wigs, high heels and flamboyant accessories in my life – it was just what the show needed to fully shine!
Now let’s talk about the cast…
In the beginning, we are first introduced to Drag Queen Miss Understanding, played by Kevin Yates, who performs their own number and hosts the drag show at the Cock-A-Two club with the sensational classic “It’s Raining Men”.
I felt fully immersed in the experience thanks to Yates’ hosting skills – so much so, I wish they could have featured more as they were totally exquisite at setting the scene and their comedic timing and banter with the audience. Turns out, they perform as a drag queen by trade so it’s no wonder they were so good!
One of the two drag queens includes Tick aka Mitizi played by Edwin Ray, who we learn has a secret wife and child that stems the motivation for the trip down to Alice Springs is utterly fabulous in this role.
He manages to find that perfect balance between giving us a night to remember, to showing full heart and emotion in songs like “Always On My Mind” when he’s finally reunited with his estranged son and there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience.
Ray’s performance is one that I will remember for being so diverse and not to mention he has dreamy vocals!
Nick Hayes, who portrays Adam aka Felicia, had me laughing throughout with his dry sense of humor – his ability to show vulnerability in numbers like “Hot Stuff” showed great layers to this fiery character. I have to say it… he looked hot in a red dress and heels too – legs for days!
Miles Western, who portrays transgender woman, Bernadette was a real joy to watch – the class, the vulnerability, the one-liners that I craved for made me laugh in hysterics!
He manages to portray a transgender woman without being too over the top and stereotypical and really takes the role and makes it his own without duplicating Terence Stamp’s version in the movie.
I adored the friendship-relationship between Bernadette and Bob, played by Daniel Fletcher (who had a lovely singing voice and was always reacting to something going on stage that made my eyes always wander over to him).
Western’s performance, like I’ve mentioned for most of this review, was a highlight! He manages to take the character on a real journey throughout the show and delivers the classic tampon line without hesitation (if you know, you know!)
All three of them as a trio are the perfect casting for this iconic pair.
More highlights for me include the three diva’s, played by Claudia Kariuki, Rosie Glossop and Aiesha Pease all came together in perfect harmony and looked fabulous! They play a crucial role of being the voices for some of the lip-syncs that occur (if you’re a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race, you know how important this is!) and all three totally smashed the songs out of the park!
I couldn’t take my eyes off the choreography! For someone who has dabbled in musical theatre and choreography, I fully appreciated this dance-heavy musical as it elevated the whole story and the songs for me.
I never thought I would see opera mixed with street dance – but anything goes in this show and it’s pulled off effortlessly!
One note to prepare yourself for when you come and see the show; the pace moves quite quickly at the beginning so make sure you keep up, especially if you’re new to the storyline completely. A bit of research or even going to watch the film might help speed you up too!
I felt the emotions of both the performers on stage and the audience as we all embraced with joy over the return of theatre, return of musical theatre and enjoying the feeling of singing and dancing to our favourite tunes.
So my advice is: come and see Priscilla Queen of the Desert whilst it’s at Royal & Derngate! It’s been a while since Northampton has seen such glitz and glam and you’ll walk away feeling your funny bone, emotions and ears fully satisfied!