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Review: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Expect sequins, feathers and 80s anthems galore in Jason Donovan's first producing gig, showing at New Theatre Oxford until 28 Aug. Muddy reviews opening night.

Just in case you missed the riotous, witty, sequin-spangled and heart string-tugging Oscar-winning movie of the 90s, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is a story that’s hard not to love.

Three friends take a battered bus on a road trip, taking their drag queen routine to the Aussie outback. It’s your self-discovery, test of friendship, adversity tale told with wit, wigs and sparkly heels.

After the unexpected runaway success of the movie and West End stints, Priscilla is back on tour at New Theatre Oxford (23-28 Aug) – this time produced by another 90s icon Jason Donovan (who performed in the original West End production), and the team behind the critically acclaimed UK tours of Hairspray. What’s not to love?

We can’t think of a better production to welcome us back to theatres after the tough year they (and we!) have had.

From the moment the band started to play, toes were tapping, shoulders were shuffling, with the audience belting out lyrics to It’s Raining Men, Hot Stuff, I Will SurviveGirls Just Wanna Have Fun. It was clear that many in the crowd were Priscilla super-fans (and had the outfits to match!) which only added to the buzz and excitement to be back in the theatre watching the seriously talented – and pleasingly body diverse – cast.

Stand out performances came from Miles Western who’s portrayal of Bernadette was warm and flamboyant (not to mention his incredible voice), as well as The Divas – the singing trio that lifted the melodies and energy in the room whilst donning spectacular wigs. Nick Hayes (Felicia) and Edwin Ray (Mitzi) were also impressive with toned legs to envy (seriously – these guys know how to work a pair of stilettos).

Creds must also be given to the costume team. Every time the cast strutted on to the stage each outfit was more elaborate and sparkly than the last – feathers, sequins, capes, headpieces – think Strictly but in overdrive.

Enough spoilers for now – you’ll have to watch the show for more – but we can say that this show really is feel-good theatre at its finest. You’ll emerge with your cheeks aching from laughing, singing or an ear-to-ear grin. Go see it if you have the chance.

THE MUDDY VERICT

Good for: The hilarity of the characters, the glitz and glamour of the costumes, and the exuberance of the dance routines make this show a winning formula for girls’ night (with post-theatre cocktails, of course).

Not for: The show is packed with racy double entendres so you might want to leave the kids (the show is recommended for 13+) and your conservative grandma at home.

See Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at New Theatre Oxford until 28 Aug. Tickets from £13.

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