PRISCILLA: QUEEN OF THE THE DESERT THE MUSICAL AT THE NEW ALEXANDRA THEATRE, BIRMINGHAM
Theatre Run: Monday 18 - Saturday 30 March 2013
Performance Reviewed: Wednesday 20 March (Press Night)
Reviewed by Kyle Pedley
The jukebox musical, i.e. one where the soundtrack consists of a variety of pre-existing songs and hits as is the case with Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, can be a deceptively difficult thing to pull off well. Whilst a good lineup of known hits will help engage and familiarise an audience immediately, too often the lack of a concise and tailored original score and repertoire of songs can find shows scrambling for their own identities or, even worse, leaning on it’s catalogue of pre-existing tunes to mask a dirth of character, plot or original thinking and creativity (for a perfect example of this see the current shambles of Viva Forever! in the West End).
Following the general premise and plot of the movie, Priscilla sees aging, somewhat disenfranchised drag queen Tick/Mitzi (Jason Donovan) embark on a Trans-Australia road trip aboard the titular tour bus to head up a drag act engagement in the nowhere town of Alice Springs as a favour for his ‘wife’ Marion, and in the hopes of re-entering the life of eight year old son Benji. To aid him on his journey and eventual act, he enlists the company of recently widowed transexual Bernadette (Richard Grieve) and ostentatious, somewhat obnoxious young drag queen Adam/Felicia Jollygoodfellow (Graham Weaver).
The most impressive performance of the show, however, has to surely be Richard Grieve’s brilliantly charismatic and wholly transformative turn as Bernadette. Whilst on paper Donovan’s Tick offers all the ingredients and criteria to be the show’s lead, Bernadette is such a delightful, classy, sassy yet somewhat hesitant and occasionally forlorn figure, and Grieve’s performance so deliciously involved and complete that she becomes the shows real shining star amongst all the frocks, feathers and frollocks. It’s no slight to either Donovan or Weaver, who put in spirited, brilliant performances and certainly more than hold their own, but it is Grieve who simultaneously elevates and grounds the show with a memorable, layered masterclass in not just transgender performing, but character acting as a whole.
(A)MUSINGS RATING - * * * * * (5 out of 5 Stars)
PRISCILLA: QUEEN OF THE DESERT THE MUSICAL is running at the New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham from Monday 18 March to Saturday 30 March 2013.
Alternatively phone the Telephone Booking line on 0844 871 3011.
Press tickets for this performance of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert The Musical were provided courtesy of The New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham directly. (A)musings Media gratefully acknowledges their generous invitation.