Review: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at the Palace Theatre, Manchester

By Hana Kelly

Glitter? Check. Feathers? Check. A heart-warming tale of friends overcoming adversity in a truly meaningful journey of self-discovery? Check.

The show kicks into life with an energy-filled rendition of Weather Girls’ Singing in the Rain.

Coats and trousers are stripped to the delight of the audience and as the song hits the chorus, umbrellas filled with glitter twinkle on the stage.

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Then, we meet the leads: Tick, played by Edwin Ray, Felicia by Nick Hayes (Orson from Hollyoaks), and Bernadette, played by Miles Western.

Based on the Oscar-winning 1994 film, and last performed in Manchester in 2019, the bus is back on the stage heading to Alice Spring, so Tick can finally meet his six-year-old son.

The group are traveling west from Sydney to a remote desert town casino. This, of course, calls for a quick, glamorous, performance of the Pet Shop Boy’s Go West.

Mitzi (Tick), performing with the Divas (supplied)

The songs that decorate their route are sing-along hits from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, with bops including Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, I Will Survive and I Love the Nightlife.

From difficult conversations and reconciliations, paired with vulgar humour and costumes still worthy of an Oscar, Priscilla is still queen of the theatre.

The complicated moments are explained in a way which makes this show timeless. Gender is fluid and this is encapsulated in Priscilla.

Travelling through the bush, to a remote town in the Australian desert, the three friends find themselves making tips for an Aboriginal tour guide, being subjected to homophobic abuse, and watching a ping-pong show.

The curtain comes down for the interval on Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive with the cast dressed as if they wouldn't look out of place in a fruit bowl.

I will Survive, and thrive, on these costumes (supplied)

While the song itself wasn’t integrated, and instead an example of a ‘rehearsal for later’, it included all of the elements needed to excite the audience to the bar and back to their seats.

An honourable mention has to be given to the three Divas. Three exceptional singers who work as both back up, and narrators, offering their powerfully perfect voices to the queen’s lips syncs and helping the story move forward.

Reminiscent of Hercules, the three singers steal the show with their soulful tunes.

The ending is signalled by Felicia realising her dream of singing Kylie atop an Australian landmark, in full showgirl gear.

The rest of the cast come together for a mashup ending of glitz, including I Will Survive and Shake Your Groove Thing.

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert runs at the Palace Theatre until Saturday October 16. Click here for tickets and more information.

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