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Wednesday, 18 April 2018

REVIEW: Priscilla Queen of the Desert ★★★★ at Darlington Hippodrome

Priscilla Queen of the Desert ★★★★

Darlington Hippodrome
Until Saturday 28th April 2018

The Australian road trip with a difference is in town as Priscilla Queen of the Desert storms into Darlington this week. Filled full of disco mega hits and real pathos in the storyline, this is going to prove to be a hit with the Darlo crowd.

Tick (Nicholas Fletcher-Holmes), who performs under the stage name Mitzi Mitosis, is a drag queen in Sidney Australia.  He takes a call from his estranged wife Marion (Beth Hopper) who wants him to call and meet up with his 6 year old son. The trouble is that she is based miles away in Alice Springs. She suggests that he performs at her local casino, so he invites 2 fellow performers along for the trip and to help with the show. Bernadette (Julian Cound) is an older performer from the lip sync generation. She had toured with a successful group and needed some persuasion to join in. Meanwhile Adam (Luke Oldfield), who sings under the stage name Felicia, has also joined the trip. His dream is to perform Kylie songs on Ayers Rock in a frock.  The difference in age, values and culture quickly comes apparent as they start the long run into the bush.

To take them there Adam has bought an old school bus and he names it ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’. This production indeed features a bus on stage that can swing around to reveal the action in Priscilla's interior.

This show is full of disco standards like I Will Survive, Don’t Leave Me This Way and Boogie Wonderland. A live band, under musical director Nigel Ball, and many talented singers help make the music side of the production a real strength of the show. Indeed, the show opens with three divas, Rhiannon Walker, Jenny Poole and Tori McDougall, belting out Its Raining Men. These 3 regularly pop up to back the lip sync routines and show that they have real power in the vocal department.

Other numbers are performed by harmonising chorus groups which also worked well. Like every good musical we have the solo opportunities for the principals in the cast to emote their case.

The story is a strong one which examines attitudes to homophobia, fatherhood and generational conflict. Whilst never being afraid not to pull a punch, it remembers that the audience is here for a good night’s entertainment and chucks in plenty of laughs.  Julian Cound probably gets the pick of the comedy responses as Bernadette addresses various situations with calmly delivered put downs. Some of the humour and innuendo is adult and whilst it may go over kid’s heads, this would probably not be a show for the under 14s.

So, the show delivers great songs, tight dance routines, a sense of humour and some wonderful character acting under director and choreographer Martyn Knight. From the fragility of the 3 travellers on the bus to the pragmatic and sympathetic mechanic Bob, played sensitively by David Murray, there is a chemistry between the performers.

Two young lads are sharing the role of Tick's son Benji. Whilst Jamie Collict will be appearing later in the week, we had the confident Matthew Scott. Lines were delivered well, he sang beautifully, and he joined in with the dancing at the end. We have witnessed previous young lads not appear as relaxed in the role in other productions.

We said it about Darlington Operatic Society's Spamalot, and we'll say it again, mix up with the curtains aside, there wasn't a massive difference between this production and the professional production. Well done to everyone involved.  Next up for Darlington Operatic Society is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which is making its North East amateur here. Tickets go on sale this week and are available direct from the society rather than from the theatre.

Review by Stephen Oliver

Tickets:

Priscilla Queen of the Desert runs at Darlington Hippodrome from Wednesday 18th to Saturday 28thApril. Thursday April 26 is a BSL Interpreted performance. There is a 14+ age recommendation on this show.
Tickets are available now fromwww.darlingtonos.org.uk or by calling the ticket hotline on 01325 244659. Tickets for Priscilla are not available through the Hippodrome box office.



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