Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, BLOG at Bath Theatre Royal

WAKING with the insistent thump of It’s Raining Men and Pop Music in my “brain” and confronted with the news that the population of Australia had voted over­­whelmingly to approve same-sex marriage, memories of BLOG’s splendiferous Priscilla seemed perfect.

Vicki Klein’s debut as director and choreographer with the company was a resounding success, and Matthew Finch directed the excellent orchestra with a pop panache that kept cast and audience bopping through the night.

Based on the hit film, this musical version of the story of three drag queens taking on the Australian outback requires a huge cast, 500 costumes, 150 pairs of (mostly high high heeled) shoes and lots of disco fun.

It’s a show that’s full of colour and light and dancing, painted bright as the backdrop to the story of three men venturing from the relative safety of their city club into the wilds.  Tick (aka Mitzi) has a secret – a wife and son in Alice Springs, not seen for six years. He enlists the help of Adam (Felicia), a brash young stud, and Bernadette (who was called Ralph before the operation), a star of the early drag show Les Gurls.

They meet hostility and sometimes violence, but also friendship, help and even love on their journey in Priscilla, the clapped-out bus.

A successful production depends on three (or maybe four) brilliant performances and Bath Light Opera Group have just that in David Baxter, Ryan Hughes, Rob Dallimore and Nick Feierabend as Bob the mechanic.

David’s background in dancing is used to the full, and his voyage of self discovery is touching and funny.  Ryan is ideally cast as the preening, cocky Felicia, who breaks up like a little girl. Nick makes Bob the sort of man that everyone looks for – dependable, loving, non-judgemental and strong.

The stand-out performance is Rob Dallimore’s elegant Bernadette, who has fought discrimination for years, and whose instincts show she’s much more a woman than the man from whom she has run. It’s subtle, poignant and multi-layered.

If the Country Boy and Pop Music set pieces seem a bit forced, they give the energetic and talented chorus lots to do. And the three divas, (Rebecca Henderson, Aimi Kuhlke and Zoe Manifold) keep the hits coming.

Great show, almost sold out, not to be missed, and on til Saturday.


Footnote: On the minus side – and this seems a bit carping –  I am old enough to remember the days when there were celebrations that the production restrictions were lifted from Gilbert and Sullivan, allowing directors, choreographers and actors to include their own “business” rather than stick to the inflexible rules of movement. Now we are back in the same situation, when those who license performances of musicals demand identical set-piece scenes and costumes. It’s a pity really.

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