West End Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert musical on tour at Eden Court with Strictly winner Joe McFadden – don't mind if I didgeridoo!
Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert
Eden Court, Inverness
A GUARANTEED antidote to a frosty November Inverness night is a stageful of rainbow-costumed divas and glittering drag queens dancing to a non-stop soundtrack of more than 23 disco big-hitters at Eden Court.
Not to mention the blink-and-you’ll miss-it exotic Thai-style crotch-firing ping pong ball show.
Plus there is a genuinely heartwarming performance from Scottish actor JoeMcFadden as gay dad Tick aka drag act Mitzi finding himself and his role as a father.
And was that Jason Donovan's voice – former Priscilla stage star as Tick himself, now a producer of this production – telling us to turn off our mobile phones at the start of the show? Or maybe it was just someone with a bonzer Aussie accent pretending to be?
Stage musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is no slouch on the wincingly sharp one-liners either – many from Joe’s co-leads, Miles Western as mature, classy trans woman Bernadette and – as Adam – the young buck beneath acid-tongued, Kylie-obsessive drag queen Felicia, Nick Hayes.
So Tick says of Felicia: “Body by Baywatch!” Bernadette adds bitchily:“Voice by Crimewatch!”
And when Bernadette discovers gay Tick is married, she says: “What did you do on the wedding night? The best man?!”
Tick plays the gay dad heading to Alice Springs with these two performer friends to do some shows at the casino there, but mostly to meet his six-year-old son Benjy.
He’s nervous, but during the cross-country trip to get there, they all face their demons – anti-gay smalltown thugs among them.
A late start to the show on the first night in Inverness on Monday because of theatre heating failure maybe explained why our brains still had to warm up to be fast enough for the lightning-paced banter.
So there was a little delay until we made it to the punchline of Bernadette’s joke when her phone broke down while she called for a mechanic to mend bus Priscilla.
“Typical, just getting close and the battery gives up..!” she said with a grin.
Big opening number It’s Raining Men set the tone for the entertainment ahead with three golden-voiced divas perched halfway up the height of the stage behind useful multi-use scenery. And the sparkling number hinted promisingly at the next two-and-a-bit hours.
Among the many other favourite singalong songs you will hear are Go West, Shake Your Groove Thing, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, I Will Survive, I Say A Little Prayer, What's Love Got To Do With It, Spinning Around and a spectacular lip-synch to a classic La Traviata aria.
Also worth a mention is Kevin Yates as gutsy drag queen Miss Understanding who added the genuine late-night feel of Tick’s workplace, The Cockatoo Club: “Get off the stage Mitzi! Don’t let it get ugly …. Oh, too late!”
In the show, Joe McFadden reveals more of his talents than his Strictly-learned dance moves and diva queen's well-toned physique in his fabulous Mitzi costumes.
In Act One, he shares a great voice in solo I Say A Little Prayer, though in Act Two it's a more-than-acceptable Elvis vocal impersonation we get when he performs Always On My Mind for son Benjy (lovely performance there too from one of the three young actors sharing the role).
Priscilla is a story that has been around since the film launched in 1994 when it was a ground-breaking story about the drag world and gay and trans characters. But the message of tolerating people different from you, particularly members of the LGBTQ+ community, and working out how to be truly yourself in societies that might prefer people to conform, is still worth highlighting in 2019. There's a great little article on that updated story in the show's £2 programme.
But there's no denying this show hits you straight in the heart with the genuine pathos of the stories of its sympathetically-created and powerfully-acted lead characters – Tick, Bernadette and Felicia – people you still care about once the song and dance quietens down.
Not that it did until the end – after the medley reprise, after the encore – and after our standing ovation!
Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert is on at Eden Court, Inverness, until Saturday. More: www.eden-court.co.uk
The show's first photoshoot: