REVIEW: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – Tour – Manchester Opera House

There are fewer things in this life that make me happier than a disco ball.

So when I turned up for the opening night of Priscilla, Queen of The Desert at the Manchester Opera House earlier this week you can imagine my joy when said disco balls were in abundance.

The Company - Priscilla Queen of the Desert - Photo: Paul Coltas

The Company – Priscilla Queen of the Desert – Photo: Paul Coltas

The story behind Priscilla dates back to the 1994 when Australian writer and filmmaker, Stephan Elliott, released the film of the same name, starring Guy Pearce, Hugo Weaving and Terence Stamp as a group of cross-dressing misfits travelling around the Australian outback in a battered bus.

It became a cult classic and in the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympics in 2000, a look-alike bus, flanked by drag queens in gigantic wigs and headgear proved to be one of the most memorable sections of the night.

This week, Jason Donovan returned to his role as Tick, a part he knows well. Having played the same role in the show when it opened in the West End four years ago, Jason looks as comfortable in a dress made from flip-flops and a a bubblegum-pink wig  as he does in a white t shirt and jeans with a guitar slung over his shoulder.

And with fellow ‘Neighbours’ alumni, Richard Grieve, playing ageing transexual drag queen, Bernadette, and BRIT school graduate, Graham Weaver as younger drag queen, Adam/Felicia, by his side, they put on an incredible show of glitter, inch-thick make-up and high heels.

With each show requiring 500 costumes, 200 hats, 100 wigs and 150 pairs of heels, Priscilla is a treat for the eyes as well as the ears with camp-tastic disco classics such as ‘I Will Survive‘, ‘Shake Your Groove Thing‘ and ‘Hot Stuff‘.

And for anyone who has ever felt esprit d’escalier, Priscilla is chock-full of one liners to call upon in times of need. (I’ve remembered a good few!)

Richard Grieve as Bernadette, Jason Donovan as Tick and Graham Weaver as Felicia - Priscilla Queen of the Desert - Photo: Paul Coltas

Richard Grieve as Bernadette, Jason Donovan as Tick and Graham Weaver as Felicia – Priscilla Queen of the Desert – Photo: Paul Coltas

Though Jason Donovan had been feeling under the weather on the night, there was no evidence of it as his vocals were as brilliant as they had ever been and the way he attacked the incredible choreography in the show’s number is testament to  his professionalism.

Special recognition must be given to Frances Mayli McCann  who gave an eye-popping show as Cynthia, a mail-order bride entertaining her outback friends with a rather ‘special’ ping pong performance.

And Emma Kingston, Ellie Leah and Laura Mansell as the ‘Divas’ who provide incredible vocals for our drag queens to lip-sync  to.

Who knew watching two ex-Neighbours stars could be so much fun?! If I told my four-year-old self she would be watching Jason Donovan dressed up as a woman 23 years down the line – and she’d love it – I’m pretty sure she’d tell me to “rack off”.

Priscilla is extravagent, gaudy, exuberant and incredibly naughty – I wouldn’t have it any other way!

The tour continues at Manchester Opera House until February 23 before packing up and setting off around the country.

Visit www.atgtickets.com/venues/opera-house-manchester for tickets

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