Imagine, if you will, this extremely unlikely – nay, preposterous – scenario:
The Whingers are at a party; they are the only sober ones there.
It was rather disquieting to find out what that feels like. But that’s how it was at Tuesday’s preview performance of Priscilla Queen of the Desert – The Musical! at the beautiful Palace Theatre in Cambridge Circus.
The production had already deposited a rather large sum in the Whingers’ resentment bank:
1. Hackles had been raised by the introduction of an iniquitous Premium Seating policy which puts top price tickets at £92.50 (£95.25 including booking fee). Haven’t they heard the R word? We had hoped that the Young Frankenstein lesson had been learned here.
2. The best option seemed to be to go for a group booking which required Phil to purchase 10 tickets but resulted in him buying 13 which didn’t bode well.
3. Plus Phil wasn’t that keen on the 1995 source material the first time he saw it.
4. The Palace has adopted the Palladium’s “squeeze ’em all in to the stalls through one tiny door” approach which fanned the flames of their indignation.
5. The final gallon of paraffin came in the form of a packed audience (which for some queer reason consisted mainly of single men accompanied by what in less enlightened times were called “fag hags”, plus a few hen parties) all pumped up to to enjoy whatever was put before them. What kind of a theatregoing attitude is that?
Yes there was whooping, cheering, applauding and hysterical laughter at just about anything from the very off and the Whingers were obliged to effect their most decidedly cantankerous countenances. Honestly, when was the last time you heard an audience applaud the arrival of a bus? Ridiculous. Within three minutes of the curtain going up Andrew was already planning his interval escape.
But then something rather curious happened.
Rather like a horror film in which the only normal people left are bitten by zombies and transformed into frothing, deranged creatures the Whingers were entered by the spirit of Priscilla. Not whooping, of course. That is for Americans. But grinning like idiots, laughing like drains and applauding like there was no tomorrow.
Resistance was not only futile, it had drained away like cheap mascara under a waterfall of tears. And despite all their years of training in being thoroughly resistant to fun, not only did the Whingers enjoy themselves, they really, really enjoyed themselves. So much so that come the curtain call they found themselves leaping to their feet and ovating.
We could easily list a couple of dozen good reasons for going to see it but much of the joy derived from the surprises so although we are bursting to reveal the gag that precedes the dancing cup-cakes (right), we shall resist.
Nor will we talk about the road-kill gags nor explain how one of Phil’s favourite tunes “Pop Musik” is shoe-horned into the (such as it is) plot (although those familiar with the original movie will probably guess).
The catalogue of famous songs are slotted in, Mamma Mia! style, surprisingly well and they do of course put the show at a huge advantage in terms of audience goodwill.”I’ve Never Been To Me”, “Don’t Leave Me This Way”, “I Love The Nightlife”, “A Fine Romance”, “Always On My Mind” – the list of top notch foot tappers goes on and on and on.
At one point Phil even swears he heard a biological clock ticking over the pumping disco music as Andrew went rather soppy over the child who plays Tick/Mitzi’s (Jason Donovan) son.
And the wigs.
Oh yes and the bus. We’d hate to reveal how they paint it pink, but it’s terribly clever. But then the titular bus does other tricks too. It’s infinitely superior to the double decker in the embarrassingly bad Beijing/London Olympics handover ceremony which looked possibly ripped off from inspired by PQOTD (the show has been knocking around since 2006 when it opened in Sydney) with its bits and bobs opening and closing and things popping out of it all over the place (aren’t we good not spoiling it for you?). In fact if they had been even more astute they’d have pinched the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang idea of getting it to take a bow. It certainly deserved one.
Yes and we’ve already almost forgotten about the sound balance which at the point of this preview needs considerable work and the technical glitch (sequins in the drive wheel?) that stopped the show for five minutes on Tuesday night. At least it gave us a chance to discuss what fun we were having, go to the loo and almost reach the bar.
Yes, we liked it, despite the fact that it’s basically panto for adults (although there is nothing wrong with that). To be honest, had the opportunity been there we would probably have gone straight back in and watched the entire thing over again. Rather like the Busby Berkeley musicals of the Great Depression, it’s a show of over-the-top opulence which sticks a rather tall stiletto heel in the gloomy face of recession.
Take the Whingers’ word for it: get your tickets now (though eschew the Premium Seating and seats towards the back side aisles*).
Oh and don’t read the press critics either, many of whom are miserable buggers who will no doubt reveal Priscilla‘s myriad surprises. You may even emerge giggling about ginger-nuts and with a gloriously beaming smile like Andrew’s. But please don’t let that possibility put you off.
* Some in the Whinger’s party missed parts of the show due to bad sightlines. From about row L of the stalls backwards seats (towards the side aisles) the view is considerably obscured due to the overhang of the circle. Baz Bamigboye reported his own problems here. Reports that other parts of the theatre suffer are proliferating, especially here on Theatremonkey. The producers should drop the price of these seats and sell them as “restricted view”.
And did we mention we strongly disapprove of the Premium Seating policy? Not even the Pink Pound is recession proof.
Emily the front of house woman chocolate and champagne purveyor is a delight. While the producers are mulling over their ridiculous premium seating policy and lowering the prices of the restricted view seats perhaps they could spend a few moments discussing giving Emily a raise. She certainly knows how to shift her Flake Moments and with a smile.