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Standing ovation after an hilarious evening

SADOS presents Priscilla Queen of the Desert (2090106)
SADOS presents Priscilla Queen of the Desert (2090106)

I've been a regular at the South Holland Centre in Spalding for around seven years now, reviewing both professional and amateur performances, but this was the first time I've witnessed a standing ovation... and boy, they deserved it.

For those who haven't seen the Australian 1994 cult classic movie, Priscilla is a rude, hilarious and touching romp of a show, featuring those toe tapping type of pop songs that make it hard to stay seated. And the sell-out crowd at Friday evening's show absolutely loved it!

The plot sees three Australian drag queens take their act on the road in a colourful bus, named Priscilla. Cross dressers Tick (AKA Mitzi Mitosis), Adam (Felicia Jollygoodfellow) and transexual Bernadette Bassenger travel across the Australian desert performing for enthusiastic crowds and homophobic locals.

Little do the promiscuous Adam and the grieving Bernadette know that the real reason Tick has invited them on the road trip is so he can see his long-lost son and wife.

The evening was full of 'oohs' and 'aahs', 'I can't believe he did thats' and 'OMG - look at thats!'. It was hilarious. And the Australian accents never slipped!

Last time I saw Charlie Russell was as Mr Tumnus in 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' - this was a bit different. But he shone as the gay, yet married, Tick in a performance that showed warmth, humour and empathy. If you've read previous reviews of mine, you'll know I'm an old softy but it's still to Charlie's credit that his bedtime story scene with estranged son Benjamin (played by Joe Smith) brought tears to my eyes.

This was an absolute triumph for director Rob Nicholls, his assistant Patsy Figg and producer Jodie Schweikhardt

Benjamin played his role really well - I've seen him three times now and he improves with every performance.

I'd also seen Mark Bellamy in "The Wizard of Oz" and thought what a striking stage presence he had. This time he simply dominated the stage as Felicia. I understand he has experience in the world of drag and it showed in an outstanding performance that perfectly demonstrated his character's promiscuity mixed with innocence and naivety.

Andrew Rudd came to acting late but is making up for it. I've been so impressed with all his performances so far but this was his best, as the slightly tragic yet kind and caring Bernadette.

His romance with Bob (Brett Moore) really was quite touching and Brett played the mix of the tough yet open-minded Aussie to perfection.

And what can I say about his on-screen wife Abbie Schweikhardt? I'd been bowled over by her beautiful, innocent portrayals of Dorothy and Susan in 'The Wizard of Oz' and "The Lion...' respectively but she wasn't playing a child this time... oh no! She was Bob's mail-order bride Cynthia, a loud, outspoken, sexy former adult entertainer, keen on revisiting her "ping pong ball" act.

I can't go into detail in a family newspaper but needless to say, she had the audience gasping and laughing at the same time. She was brilliant.

Many scenes involved the singing and dancing of the three divas - Amber Sinclair, Jessica Forbes and Dominique Spinks and there was not a bum note between them. I've been watching Dominique since her Act II days and she is growing in to such a talent.

Bailey Mills was new to me but, like Mark Bellamy, he owned the stage as drag queen Miss Understanding. Whether speaking, singing or (acrobatically) dancing, he made sure you couldn't take your eyes off him and deserved the huge ovation he received at the end.

Rehearsals for Priscilla. (2090108)
Rehearsals for Priscilla. (2090108)

Another new face was Samuel Collins as Young Bernadette - he was camp personified and seemed to love every minute on stage just as much as the audience did.

Abbi Thompson (Marion) danced superbly and has a great stage presence, Joe Dickinson gave plenty of laughs, whether as Farrah or Jimmy, Paul Coleman gave his usual assured performance as the pastor and as Aussie yob Errol and Jane Moss was extremely convincing as homophobic bar manager Shirley.

Kevin Sharp should be proud of his first stage role as Aussie drinker Frank and another newcomer, Mark Bennett, was equally assured.

Everyone played their part in this magnificent show and the ensemble were super too. For me, Wiktoria Grzes stole the show, but Charley Mansfield, Billy Heron, Erin Black, Teigan Coupland, Alison Honeybun and Colleen Brennan were all on top of their game too.

The band is always so important too in a musical and keyboard player Karl Gernert led them superbly through classics such as What's Love Got to Do with It?, Don't Leave Me This Way, Venus, Go West, I Say a Little Prayer, I Will Survive, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Hot Stuff and Always on My Mind.

And I think part of that standing ovation must have been directed in the way of the costume team as some of the outfits, such as the cake ones and the paint brush ones, obviously had to be created specially.

This was an absolute triumph for director Rob Nicholls, his assistant Patsy Figg and producer Jodie Schweikhardt.

It's The Ladykillers next... but how on earth are they going to top this?

Jeremy Ransome

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