Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Amateur Dramatics): Theatre Review

The last time I saw Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert on stage was on Broadway when I was 16 years old, during a holiday to New York with my best friend. So when that same best friend got me tickets to see Priscilla in Sheffield for Christmas, I knew it was going to be a good one. We didn’t actually realise until the week of the performance that we were seeing an amateur dramatics production rather than the UK tour (whoops), but looking into Croft House Theatre Company and finding out that not only were they a charity but also big on inclusive theatre, I was already a fan.

It pains me even to admit this, but…I’m going to say it. I don’t remember everything about seeing the show itself on Broadway. That’s in no way a reflection on the show, but on my problematic memory: I would’ve just been starting with my chronic illness at that time, and my brain just couldn’t process memories in the way it should have done (and hasn’t done since). I remember sitting there and thinking of how incredible it was, that I adored it and that it really made me feel something, but mainly all I can actually recall is the drag queens’ stories, amazingly catchy tunes and a hell of a lot of glitter. Essentially, my happy place. Anyway, what I’m getting at is that seeing the show in Sheffield was like seeing it for the first time, but already knowing that it had big shoes to fill.

The highlight of the whole thing for me was undoubtably Cynthia’s Pop Musik performance. I can’t find a cast list for the show anywhere, but the lady playing Cynthia seriously deserves a medal for having the guts to execute that performance the way she did, and she deserved every bit of the huge round of applause she got. I also thought the three girls playing The Divas were fabulous; I can’t pretend to know anything about singing, but my best friend (who’s much more qualified to have an opinion than me) thought their voices were amazing. The three lead Queens did a great job and I was especially impressed with the ease at which they performed in heels: they strutted more confidently than bestie and I did in our own heels whilst borderline staggering to the theatre, on rainy cobbles, after drinks, on a high pain day. I don’t want to imagine what we must have looked like to anybody who saw us.So, I started writing about this performance and ended up deleting the whole thing and starting again because I sounded like such a ridiculous snob. I think it’s important to remember that this was a community theatre production, and it’s completely unfair to compare it to UK tours and West End shows and that incredible Broadway production we saw all those years ago. So with that in mind, I thought the show was really entertaining. I liked how it was kept fast-paced and dynamic, and how it went to special lengths to engage the audience, who were a wild bunch to start with. It was cute to be surrounded by people who were obviously friends and family of the cast and who wanted to show their support. Less cute when you couldn’t actually hear what was being said because of people in the audience pointing out and yelling at their talented offspring then talking about how good they were through all the scenes they weren’t in, but still. Moral support is nice.

I have to admit, there were things that weren’t so good during the performance. The choreography seemed to be just the same few moves over and over again, and from where we were sitting (right at the top of the balcony), the chorus never seemed to hit formations or be in a straight line when they were supposed to be in a straight line. I’m sure these are just ridiculously minor things that no other person would notice, but that last thing was particularly painful just because I spent my entire childhood being screamed at if we didn’t hit staging positions on time.

I think the biggest let-down for me was one key moment that I remember clearly from the Broadway show: where they arrive back from the pub and find the transphobic message graffitied on the side of the bus. On Broadway, the contrast from the seconds-ago ecstatic scene to this sudden turn of events was gut-wrenchingly sad. However, I don’t think this performance made the most of that moment: the audience seemed to interpret it as a funny, banter-like occurrence, rather than the heart-breaking act of cruelty it was originally intended to be. Maybe that was just down to the audience though, rather than the cast. There were also quite a few technical difficulties throughout the performance, but I thought the cast handled them beautifully: professionally, discreetly as possible and if necessary, addressing them with humour.

What else? Oh, I thought the set and costuming were fabulous. Going into the show, we weren’t quite sure if this was going to be a low-budget thing with really naff scenery and props, but we were pleasantly surprised. Priscilla herself was there in all her fabulous glory, and I hope the people behind the scenes get the credit they deserve for the hard work that undoubtably went into the whole production. I’m glad this rendition of the show was as glittery and sparkly as ever (as you know, glitter is a core feature of my existence), and I absolutely loved the use of the giant party poppers at the end: that, combined with the amazing whole cast performance of I Will Survive really helped the show to finish on a high and go out with a bang.

Overall, I think the show had both great and not-so-great components, but I really respect the amount of work that evidently took place by those both on and off the stage to put together this creation, and I hope everybody involved is proud of what they accomplished. And most importantly of all, the audience absolutely loved it. I enjoyed the show (particularly the cracking soundtrack which will be in my head for the foreseeable future, not even sorry) and was reminded of just how much I adore this musical, so thank you and congratulations to Croft House Theatre Company for a great evening!

Find out more about the company and keep updated about their latest productions here!

Pippa x

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