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Saturday, 11 February 2017

Review: Priscilla Queen of the Desert at Newcastle Tyne Theatre




The Packed Tyne Theatre 
Loves The Australian Road Trip Musical

Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Newcastle Tyne Theatre & Opera House
Until Sunday 12th February 2017

Judging by the packed theatre on a Friday night, this musical, based upon the 27 year old movie, is still as popular as ever. In a lively production, the tale of three entertainers going on a road trip from Sydney to Alice Springs is full of crowd pleasing songs and tongue in cheek humour.

The action begins at the Cockatoo Club in Sydney. Between performing sets on stage, drag queen Mitzi Mitosis (Jason Jones) takes a call from his estranged wife Marion (Claire Pitchford) suggesting he puts on a show in Alice Springs as it will give him a chance to meet his son Benji (tonight performed by Harrison Bateman). He heads west, in a bus called Priscilla, with fellow entertainers Felicia (James Foster) and Bernadette (Keith Wigham). The young cocky Felicia and the mature Bernadette do not hit it off and their mutual resentment is a source of difficulty in the tiny confines of the former school bus. The group meet various characters along their journey, with a variety of reactions to the sight of 3 drag queens in their splendid outfits.

We had the chance to catch the last UK tour (Review LINK)as it reached Sunderland and we loved the fun-loving spirit of the show. This Liam Glendinning production has many parallels with the feel of that show. This includes the clever prop of the spinning bus.

A major plus for this show is the popularity of the songs that make up the show. There are the big show stopping party songs like Go West, I Will Survive, Boogie Wonderland and opener It’s Raining Men. There are the gentle ballads giving the talented cast a chance to show they can more than belt them out including True Colours and A Fine Romance featuring Gavin Hobbs as the mechanic Bob.

The nature of Bernadette’s stage show is that she lip-syncs to the records. To achieve this director Dan Cunningham uses the power and versatility of three Divas, namely JoJo Hatfield, Melanie Hill and Melanie King. They frequently pop up to drive the songs along.  

Add to this mix the three central stars of the show Jason Jones, Keith Wigham and James Forster who frequently sing and entertain. The shows success is very much dependant upon their on stage chemistry and ability to bring the audience on board. Certainly where we were sat, the Friday night crowd were singing and cheering along. The accents may occasionally slip but that adds to the fun as much as anything.

Driving the music along is a ten piece live band under musical director John Hudson. They take advantage of the natural acoustics of the Opera House to fill the venue with the sound of the disco classics.

There is the willingness to address the audience and that helps the atmosphere. Miss Understanding (Jack Wonncott) offering some late comers a watch set the tone for the show. Later on, a number of the audience found themselves on stage dancing along with the ensemble at the start of the second act.

I must mention the rest of the ensemble and dancers at this point. A let down of some shows is a lack of commitment from the all important ensemble. Those brief moments, when they stop being a part of the action, can spoil the feel of a show. This wasn’t the case tonight.  It has to be said that this ensemble are fully committed to supporting the action and they help give the show a feel of a big production. The dancers are fabulous and the routines are a credit to choreographer Kathleen Knox.

This show has almost as many costume changes as it does musical numbers. This fact reaches a peak in one of the final scenes with its rapid outfit changes.

The show also features a bus – the eponymousPriscilla Queen of the Desert. Which is regularly spun around to show the action on the group’s travels. At least, unlike the bus on the last UK tour that we saw, it did not literally break down and stop the show! Along with the costumes and lighting design, it is a sign of the higher production values which echo that of the recent UK tour.



Under director Dan Cunningham, Priscilla is a fun, entertaining show that is a real crowd pleaser. Great songs, high production values and a marvellous cast combine to make this a show that is well worth seeing.

Review by Stephen Oliver.


Tickets:
Tickets are from £18.50 - £22. Concessions £2 off full price tickets on Thursday & Sunday performances only. Groups buy 10 get 1 free. (plus booking fees when booking online and over the phone)
Tickets on sale now at www.tynetheatreandoperahouse.uk
Booking and Information Line: 0844 2491 000 (10am – 6pm Monday to Friday

Please note this show is 16+ due to the use of coarse language.

Future Shows:
Producers Astravaganza Entertainment return to the Tyne Theatre & Opera House with Annie the Musical between Thursday 1stSaturday 3rd June 2017. Details: http://nomorepanicbutton.blogspot.co.uk/2016/06/72-1024x768-normal-0.html



 

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