PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT – The Musical
Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Monday 27th January, 2014
What a treat to catch this bus again! On the road again, Priscilla brings its blend of pop music, coarse humour, dry wit and feel-good sentiment to Wolverhampton. Heading the cast this time out, taking the Jason Donovan role is Noel Sullivan (from HearSay). Sullivan’s in good voice, having developed a rich warm tone that tickles our heartstrings from the get go with his touching rendition of Say A Little Prayer. His character goes through the most poignant arc as he comes out to his companions as a husband and father, before meeting his son for the first time and negotiating a relationship with him. Here the show makes one of its important points: kids won’t grow up homophobic unless you bring them up that way.
Richard Grieve continues to please, filling the stage with grace, elegance and acidic one-liners as Bernadette, striking up a touchingly tentative relationship with Aussie bloke-cum-man of the world Bob (Giles Watling). The fabulous Graham Weaver’s Felicia is the most flamboyant of the trio, fearlessly doing his thang in the face of some brutal homophobia.
There are some hilarious and grotesque moments courtesy of Ellie Leah as the disturbingly breasted barmaid and munter, Shirl, and from Cynthia, (Frances Mayli McCann) Bob’s startling wife who stops the show with a ping pong ball.
The score is packed with familiar pop and disco hits, pleasingly apropos rather than shoehorned in like some jukebox musicals I could mention. Musical director Richard Weeden leads a tireless, hardworking band who keep energy levels high and underscore some of the more reflective moments. Special mention must go to the three divas: Emma Kingston, Laura Mansell, and Ellie Leah (without Shirl’s breasts) suspended high above the stage and singing live so that others may lip-synch.
This life-affirming show is for everyone. The middle-aged women in the audience cackle and clap in delight. In the interval a straight man tells me he hasn’t seen the film but he’s loving it.
Like its movie predecessor, the show puts gayness in all its glory centre stage. In this day and age it’s a clarion call, a blare of defiance against the rising tide of homophobia and discrimination around the world. Camp and colourful as any gay pride march and just as political, Priscilla has an importance outside itself showing as it does that non-heterosexual ways of living are just as valid and just as human.