Review: Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical

Simon Hale feels good at Birmingham Hippodrome.

Live theatre in Birmingham has got back on track after a prolonged Covid pause with a fittingly celebratory road movie-based musical.

A gender-bending journey for acceptance, Priscilla Queen of the Desert at Birmingham Hippodrome is a revival of the stage show of the pioneering LGBT film of the same name from 1994.

Aussie drag queen Tick aka Mitzi (played by Edwin Ray) persuades fellow drag artist Adam/Felicia (Nick Hayes) and trans queen Bernadette (Miles Western) to join him in a concert in Alice Springs where he also aims to reunite with his estranged wife and meet their son whom he has never seen.

Too cash-strapped to afford the airfare, they agree to travel from Sydney to the Outback in a rickety bus they nickname Priscilla, in which they experience mishap, scorn and adventure. With sequins, capes and headpieces as their armour, and high heels and super-sharp wit as their weapons, they strut their stuff to disco anthems that relate loosely to the action and their feelings.

Their sparkling outfits which get ever more elaborate, pumped-up dancing to tracks like It’s Raining Men, Hot Stuff and I Will Survive, and constant sexual innuendo are pure joy as the action moves from scene to scene at breakneck pace.

Hilarious support ranges from dancing cream cakes referencing “Someone left the cake out in the rain” from MacArthur Park to a female entertainer shooting ping pong balls in, er, a bodily way.

Divas Claudia Kariuki, Rosie Glossop and Aiesha Pease belt out the anthems for the players’ lip-synching, and in their own right, with sheer aplomb accompanied by an equally fine live band. No wonder the full house audience on press night were feet-tapping and clapping well before giving the show a sustained standing ovation.

A feel-good show par excellence, Priscilla hits all the right notes in terms of inclusion and fun, making it the perfect welcome back to theatregoers after months of lockdown. Don’t miss this best of coming out parties.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert is in performance at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday, September 2nd. The age guidance is 15+. Tickets.