Standing Ovation For Jason Donovan

Fast-paced romp with frocks in the Outback is a delight

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Obvious risks are attached to any attempt to turn a much-loved film into a theatrical experience but the makers of this musical version of Priscilla Queen of The Desert carry it off to stunning effect here.

This hugely enjoyable show, featuring Jason Donovan, avoids simply trying to reproduce the Aussie movie on the stage and gives much more, with credible additional songs and music and some extraordinary outfits and performances not seen in the film.

It sticks to the movie’s plot, with key moments and dialogue delivered faithfully to delight a knowing audience. But it spreads its wings with some wonderful development and interpretations of passages in the story of three Sydney drag queens on an odyssey across the Australian Outback.

There are plenty of catchy disco hits combined with an intense visual spectacle to keep the audience enthused. The pace is very fast and never flags. It’s hard to keep count of the number of costume changes and scene changes, culminating in a hilarious super-fast rendition of the trios’ drag act at the Alice Springs casino where the music goes to chipmunk speed.

With Donovan in the show, it includes some funny jokes about Neighbours, the TV soap that propelled him to stardom in the 1980s, and his erstwhile co-star Kylie Minogue. These include a dig at his reputation for wooden acting, which is brave considering that as Tick/Mitzi he fails to shine as his two drag-acting companions do. But he has a clear connection with many in the audience who seem to be longstanding fans of the likeable Aussie and there can be no doubt about his popularity.

Great performances are put in by Simon Green as Bernadette and Adam Bailey as Felicia. These are no mean achievements, given that the film gave us an acclaimed performance by veteran actor Terence Stamp as Bernadette and it helped establish Guy Pearce (Felicia) as a star.

Tribute must be paid to the three singing divas – Lisa-Marie Holmes, Laura Mansell and Catherine Mort – for their contribution and to the rest of the enthusiastic and hard-working cast.

Monday night’s audience gave a deserved standing ovation.

All in all, the show is great fun and it is impossible to leave without a smile on your face. If you ever enjoyed the film or ever watched Neighbours, this is for you.

Roger Smith

October 6, 2015