Priscilla: Queen of the Desert – 14 March 2017, Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield
***** With the weather still cold and the summer holidays feeling a long way off what you need this time of year is a feel good summer musical, which makes Croft House Theatre Company’s performance of “Priscilla – Queen of the Desert”, at the Lyceum, Sheffield until 18 March perfect timing.
Based on the film, the musical follows the journey of three friends and their battered old bus across the Australian outback, along the way delivering glitz and glamour, a host of outrageous costumes and over 20 fabulous disco classics including “I will Survive” (number one 38 years ago today on the same day that one of my best friend’s was born).
Croft House Theatre Company, one of the first community theatre groups in the country to perform Priscilla and with the help of over 100 people to get it to the stage, kept their promise to deliver a musical that was outrageous, ostentatious and outlandish and delivered with heart, celebrating friendship, bringing LGBT issues to the forefront and packed full of laugh out loud lines, from the moment the Divas (Nicola Cutts, Jessica Widdowson and Jill Beckett) kicked off the show by coming down from the theatre heavens.
All of the main cast were brilliantly cast and had perfected their Australian accents, with the friendship between them shining through, and all of the drag queens came across as if they had been dressing up and confidently performing in women’s clothing all their lives, though any later comers sitting near the front need to be aware of possibly audience interaction by Miss Understanding (Martin Scattergood).
Stand out cast members amongst included Bernadette (Mark Harris) who perfected being the matriarch. with a soft centre; Damian Ross as Tick/Mitiz who came across as someone the audience could relate to, like and as a great dad; James Bell as the young Bernadette who was so perfectly cast I wouldn’t have been surprised if behind all the feathers he was related to Mark; Maria Simms as Chinese mail order bride Cynthia whose small part was packed with attitude and the ability to fake tricks with ping pong balls to “Pop Muziq”; Steve Pashley as Bob, the sweet lovely guy that all girls and drag queens need in their lives; Tick’s son Benji (played by Dylan Ross or Thomas Slater depending which show you go to), who played his role with a natural sweet innocence; and last but definitely not least the three Divas who were larger than life, corseted, bee-hived and sang like Motown angels.
In a musical packed with so many great numbers its hard to choose favourites but I must mention “I say a litte prayer for you” sung with beautiful emotion by Tick, “Don’t leave me this way” performed with dramatic choreography as the funeral speech, “Go West” turned into an even more camped anthem that in my opinion was better than the Pet Shop Boys original, “I love the night life” which was disco perfection at it’s very best, “Thank god I’m a country boy” performed by Country Boy Sam Widdowson and proving that the best voices in the show didn’t just come from the queens and Divas; the Divas’ performance of “Girls just want to have fun” that could give Cyndi Lauper a run for her money; Tick’s hilarious cake left out in the rain version of “MacArthur park”; Tick’s emotional Elvis style “Always on My Mind” with his son sweetly singing “I say a little prayer over the top”; and finally the Kylie medley from Ben Loy as Felicia that the Minogue sister would have been proud of.
Praise needs to go the wardrobe manager Christine Minott and her team who delivered flamboyant and multiple costume changes on mass with highlights including Tick/Mitzi puppet and flipflop dresses and brave nudity outfit; props manager Hannah Bloomer for the rotating camper van “Priscilla” (complete with a Kylie cut out and a pink stiletto on top) which was a star of the show all by itself and the flowers with errectile dysfunction; director and choregrapher Claire Harriott for clever scenes including the slow Baywatch style running/fighting scene and the montage sequence; and all of the rest of the crew who helped make it the incredible brilliant show it was.
Formed in 1902, Croft House Theatre Company has a long tradition of producing high quality theatre using local talent in their cast and production teams. They perform annually at the Sheffield Lyceum and aim to bring the residents of the city great musicals at affordable prices. For further information on Croft House Theatre Company visit www.crofttheatre.co.uk, like them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CroftHouseTheatreCompany or follow them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/crofttheatreco.
Priscilla – Queen of the Desert is on at the Lyceum until Saturday 18 March will daily evening performances at 7.15pm and an extra matinee performance on the Saturday at 2pm. To book visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/whats-on/priscilla-croft-house, or visit or telephone the Sheffield Theatres box office on 0114 249 6000.