I remember running into Matthew Cole at the last performance of Never Forget – The Take That Musical and him mentioning that he was going into a new show in the West End: Priscilla – Queen oft he desert. Having never seen the movie my reaction was something along the line of “Is that the new jukebox show with lots of drag queens?”. Of course I had heard of the show opening in Spring 2009 but I hadn’t paid much attention so far.
I’m writing this about three years later after attending the final performance of Priscilla in the West End on New Year’s Eve 2011. And although I haven’t been a totally devoted fan and hardcore regular I did manage to see the show 25 times during its run. I can hear some of you saying: But that’s a lot, you definitely are a regular! Yes, watching the same production 25 times is more than most theatergoers will ever commit to. But I know for certain that a lot of you Priscillaholics have seen the show twice that many times (or more). So, let’s say I am a supporter of the show but not a die-hard fan.
Being a supporter ment I definitely wouldn’t miss out on coming along for Priscilla’s last journey. So that was my New Year’s Eve sorted then.
The atmosphere inside the theatre was absolutely buzzing right from the start of the show. There were cheers and clapping throughout the show – and I mean the enthusiastic and fun cheers, not the annoying cheers you sometimes get at the most inappropriate moments of shows. Even though the closure of a show is rarely a fun occasion the audience definitely wanted to make the most of this evening and show their appreciation to everyone involved in the production.
A great audience usually helps to bring out the very best in the cast’s performance. Though I doubt the cast would have needed any help in that department. The energy on stage was stunning – you could feel that everyone in the cast gave his and her all and wanted this show to be one to remember. And it worked as I can safely say I will always be happy and proud to mention that I was there for the last journey of the pink bus.
Oliver Thornton has been with the show right from the start and as much as I enjoyed seeing other performers play Adam/Felicia (amongst them Matthew Cole who I have known for years and generally love to see on stage) no one was able to capture the role so absolutely perfectly. Adam/Felicia is such a loud, extravagant and camp person yet there is also something vulnerable about him. To portray the character without losing touch of this vulnerable side is something Oliver has managed exceptionally well. It does help that he has a body like a Greek God, a fantastic voice, great comic timing and is all around nice to look at. 😉
His reaction to the (well deserved) full standing ovation during the complete Kylie Medley shows how much the part and the show means to him – I honestly thought the guy wouldn’t be able to sing at all. But he did and my God, that was the best I’ve ever seen and heard him. Pure emotion and just a bright star on stage at the Palace Theatre – Oliver, I salute you!
I have never really warmed to Richard Grieve’s Tick I have to admit. He was good – I don’t deny that. It’s just that I have seen quite a few other performers in the part that I thought were more suited both acting wise and vocally. For me Hugo Harold-Harrison will always be Tick. The guy was perfect in the part and he and Oliver were by far my favourite on stage duo in this show. Richard definitely delivered the best performance out of the times I’ve seen him in this show. He seemed quite moved by the audience’s reaction as well.
Don Gallagher managed to really grow on me during his time in the show. I will always have a soft spot for Tony Sheldon who just had that special sparkle as Bernadette. However I was glad they found such a worthy actor to take over from Tony.
The whole cast was on such a high that night. I did spot a couple of tears in the opening number and by the end of the show there was hardly a dry eye on stage.
A special mention goes to the fabulous Steven Cleverly. I have admired those legs for the the past three years and I’m not ashamed to admit that. The guy looks absolutely stunning in drag – a lot of women would kill for looks like that!
The second person I’d like to mention is John Brannoch (who is responsible for one of my two appearances on stage in that show). John has always stood out for me in the cast. He’s a brilliant dancer and is a really expressive dancer. Shame I never managed to see him as Bernadette.
Priscilla is such a feel good show. No matter what my mood was when I entered the theatre I could always be certain that I would leave with a smile on my face. And that’s one of the things I will miss: The uplifting atmosphere this show provided. The West End will be a bit less colorful without the pink bus. Shows come and go and Priscilla has had a good run but this is one of the shows that leave a big hole in the heart of the West End and are hard to replace. Drag queens, divas, half naked guys, a mix of the best pop and party song classics there are, a pink bus, cupcake costumes, a run over Teletubby…. The show certainly was quite something!
Priscilla will be missed by many fans. But the memories of the journey to the heart of fabulous remain thanks to everyone involved in the production. So thank you to everyone on stage and off stage. It’s thanks to you so many people have been able to escape the often dark and gloomy everyday life for a few hours. This show has provided me with some fantastic memories that I shall cherish forever. Priscilla may be gone but the memories remain.
Farewell Priscilla, you were the Queen of the West End!
Video by the extremely talented John Brannoch.