Review: Priscilla the Musical at Auckland's Civic

Ray Meagher and other cast members performing Priscilla the Musical at Auckland's Civic Theatre (supplied)
Ray Meagher and other cast members performing Priscilla the Musical at Auckland's Civic Theatre (supplied)

When the theatre is filled with middle-aged women clutching lit-up plastic cocktail glasses, you know exactly what kind of show you're getting yourself in for.

A jukebox musical, light on plot but stuffed full of toe-tapping camp classics, scantily clad drag queens and impossibly large shoes - yep, it's Priscilla.

Based on the 1994 film of the same name, the show tells the story of Tick - 'Mitzi Mitosis' by night - who bundles two of his mates onto a banged-up bus and drives from Sydney to Alice Springs to meet his young son for the first time.

The plot is really just a vehicle for rolling out hit after hit - everyone from the Village People to Kylie Minogue and Dionne Warwick get a turn.

It's entertaining, as far as that's concerned, but feels much more like a bitsy variety show than something like the more cohesive Jersey Boys, for example.

The biggest disappointment in the song list is the absence of the film's poignant opening number, Charlene's 'I've Never Been to Me', which appeared in a previous production here but has since been substituted for the rather more blunt 'It's Raining Men'.

Still, add a few disco balls, big choreography and even bigger costumes, and you've got yourself a fun night out.

The humour comes easily and is appropriately naughty and punny - with the exception of one gallingly racial stereotype, which was pushed too far.

The performances on the whole are fine - not outstanding, but the material doesn't exactly demand it. Certainly the Aussie accents of the largely British cast leave much to be desired.

Worth noting though is Simon Green as the elegant transsexual Bernadette. His portrayal was classy, tender and touching - the most nuanced of the cast.

Ray Meagher, of course, is a huge hit as mechanic Bob, and does not disappoint as he makes his entrance with a tidy little Home and Away reference. Holding a tune isn't his strong suit, but his acting chops more than make up for it.

Review: Priscilla the Musical at Auckland's Civic

Auckland's Civic Theatre is, as usual, a grand host for such a lavish production, but I couldn't end this review without remarking - not for the first time - on the venue's vexed crowd management procedures.

The admission procedures simply aren't efficient enough. Ten minutes before curtain there were still lengthy lines out onto Queen St, with the performance eventually starting 20 minutes late. Even the conductor looked peeved.

Priscilla the Musical, Civic Theatre Auckland, until November 13.

This review was based on an October 15 preview.

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