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Priscilla Queen of the Desert - Birmingham Hippodrome

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by ABC Writer (subscribe)
Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
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Drag queen musical is fun and vibrant
The curtain was back up at Birmingham Hippodrome after 15 months of the pandemic and it was musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert doing the honours.

Priscilla Queen of the desert, Birmingham Hippodrome
Bright costumes and sass in Priscilla

Welcoming the audience back first of all on opening night was Chief Artistic Director and CEO of Birmingham Hippodrome, Fiona Allan, who gave a gracious and emotional speech thanking everyone for giving their support to theatres over such a tough time.

It's the public's support, Government funding and business acumen that have helped the Hippodrome survive - so we can still enjoy shows like Priscilla, which is on at the Birmingham theatre until Saturday(September 4).

Priscilla Queen of the Desert has been on tour in the UK for eight years and there's a worry that it may seem a little dated. But it was clear from early on that the scriptwriters have kept busy, keeping this fresh with new jokes, plenty of relevant wit and fantastic costumes.

Priscilla Queen of the desert, Birmingham Hippodrome
Drag Queens and dramas make for a thrilling show

Set in Australia, the story follows three drag queens as they head on an adventure into the outback on a battered old bus and grow through various personal journeys of their own.

I'd seen it years ago but I'd forgotten just how joyous and funny it is. Maybe that was more pronounced after lockdown but the crazy wigs, endless pop hits and banter between the characters was an instant pick-me-up.

Based on the Oscar-winning movie, Priscilla toes the line between hilarious and sentimental. It's ambitious and enlightening, along with generous in its message of acceptance and love for everyone.

Then there's the music. Hit after hit of dancefloor favourites from 'It's Raining Men' to 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun', plus LGBTQ anthems like 'Go West'; all sung by a talented cast. It's not just pop either with an opera aria scene being one of the most captivating.

Priscilla Queen of the desert, Birmingham Hippodrome
An opera aria scene is mesmerising

The costumes get even more bizarre as the show progresses but are part of the fun. Drag queens dancing in cupcake outfits have never been so entertaining.

The jokes are edgy and often crude but make for fantastic sparks between three drag queens. Miles Western stands out as the older and wiser Bernadette while Nick Hayes is bursting with energy as impetuous, sassy Felicia.

Between them is Edwin Ray paying it with a straight bat, in terms of comedy, as Tick who has a secret child and wife from a former life.

Priscilla Queen of the desert, Birmingham Hippodrome
All the singers bring alive a soundtrack of pop hits

A stirring finale of 'I Will Survive' made this show seem even more relevant than ever. After all, survival is what's been on everyone's minds for a long time now - from the theatre to the general public.

Being able to soak up the fun atmosphere and enjoy the freedom and creativity of live theatre once more felt like a very special gift.
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Why? Bright and fun musical to cheer you up
When: Until September 4
Phone: 0844 338 5000
Where: Birmingham Hippodrome, Hurst Street, Birmingham, B4
Cost: From 27
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