Priscilla Review: Theatre Online

Review of Priscilla Queen of the Desert – CTC

Loughborough Town Hall – January 23rd 2018

From the moment the show started and four beautifully dressed Divas in flowing white dresses appeared and started to sing, I knew we were in for a great night at the Town Hall Theatre in Loughborough.

Having seen this show before I knew what it was like, but I was quickly blown away by the opening number performed by the Christchurch Theatre Club.

This wonderful show is packed full of hits including It’s Raining Men, Venus, Go West, I Will Survive, Hot Stuff and Boogie Wonderland, and began with a high energy opening number, giving the cast the chance to showcase some seriously impressive vocals – namely from Ashley Bright (Tick/ Mitzi) and Nick Sutcliffe (Bernadette) and the four Divas.

Based on the 1994 Oscar-winning movie of the same name, the show follows the journey of two drag queens and a transgender woman as they travel across Australia in an old bus, named Priscilla. I have to say from the outset that this is one of my favourite shows and was a little concerned about an amateur company producing it, but I soon realised I had nothing to worry about. There was an absolute professionalism about this amateur production thanks to the show’s Director and Choreographer, Michael Gamble, and his fantastically talented cast.

The three main characters were brilliant. Ashely played Tick in a way very reminiscent of Jason Donavan, who played the role in London and on tour, but bringing a depth and sensitivity that gave the character an engaging warmth. He sang well, acted the part with conviction and was able to move convincingly from the flamboyant world of the drag queen to the world of an absentee father.

Nick Sutcliffe was quite superb as Bernadette and showed what a consummate actor he is. He completely inhabited the role throughout and his comedy timing was wonderful. The looks and mannerisms, as well as the words, particularly when in conversation with Felicia, were delightfully trenchant and often very funny, due to perfect delivery.

Craig Butterworth, who I have seen many times before was, in his element as Felicia. He was clearly born to play the part of outrageous Adam. He dominated the action and he was totally transformed by the part: his singing, dancing and superb comedy ability were a joy to watch. His solo of Sempere Libera was one of the highlights of this dazzling show. Dare I say that he has pretty good legs too!!

All three principals owned the stage, threw everything they’ve got into what must be exhausting roles and at the same time, seemed to be having an absolute ball!

All the above principals were very well supported by the thoroughly entertaining antics of Duncan Gadsby as Bob, Jack Hardy as Miss Understanding/Young Bernadette, Anita Benson as Shirley, Louise Smith as Marion, Hannah Osgood as Cynthia, and Oliver Pinchess/ Finn Sibson as the young boy Benji.

There was a very hard working ensemble who sang and danced with fantastic enthusiasm and skill and there was no doubt that they were enjoying every moment on stage. Well done to:

Finan Archbold, Guy Benson, Bobbie Da Bell, Sophie Draycott, Kevin Gould, Vicky Mee, Aaron Murray, Julie Robinson, Jayne Sanderson, Alex Singh, Mel Swift and Carl Unwin.
Belting out many a fine Standard were the four outstanding Divas – Lucy Banks, Lucy Maden, Anja Palmer and Hannah Parker. They not only sounded great, but looked it too, in a variety of splendid dresses and costumes.

The costumes play a large part in the show and just consider this. There were 196 costumes, 20 wigs, 94 hats and headdresses plus many different shoes, boots, heels and eye masks, over 60 of them. Colourful, bright and imaginative describes them. Congratulations to those backstage who helped the cast with the quick, but often complex changes and well done to the whole cast for the ease at which they managed the costumes, scenery and props after what must have been limited rehearsal time.

The standard of dancing was very high indeed and the whole cast danced with great skill and total commitment. Michael Gamble’s choreography along with his direction of the show was a joy to watch. The large set numbers such as “It’s Raining Men and Macarthur park were superb.

The lighting design by Robert Bridges was dynamic and well suited to the production and the sound by Total Theatre Ltd was everything it should be.

At the end of the show, when the whole cast were assembled on the stage the effect was stunning. Incidentally, I loved the finale which for me is always an important part of any show.
The band was excellent, managing the big range of musical styles, directed by Vicki Hing. I am sure she has worked very hard with the cast as the vocal standard was very high indeed. The balance between the band and the cast was generally good.

Thank you, CTC for making my night and setting the bar so high for the rest of 2018. I will be surprised if I see anything better this year.

Priscilla is a wonderful show full of great songs, a very funny script, larger than life colourful characters and is an inspiration to us all. CTC in their usual way made it their own tonight and added yet another superb performance to their long list of musical theatre successes.

Two hours of good, not particularly clean fun, loads of laughs, wonderful songs and dance routines, as well as some more poignant moments, earned this excellent cast a very well-deserved standing ovation.

The show continues until Saturday but I understand that it is sold out.