Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Palace Theatre, London

2.00

Donovan's disco divas are a drag

I will survive, I'm sure, but the Priscilla wave that caught the Palace Theatre last night was a pretty strong blast of lethal elements: costumes that would have looked dated in a 1970s Talk of the Town floor show, a sick-making reunion between Jason Donovan as a drag queen and his little boy by a real-life woman (a rarity in this show) and a book that rhymes hormone with whore moan and demands that somebody shuts his von Trapp.

Yes, folks, it's the most successful show in the history of Australian and New Zealand musical theatre. It puts the glory into Gloria and the gay into Gaynor and it plays other disco favourites while a group of friends traverse the desert for a date in Alice Springs and three divas descend like Monteverdi cherubs (not) on a hot date.

At one point these divas launch into a karaoke version of Sempre Libre from La Traviata, which is no less nonsensical than a full-blown staging of the most meaningless pop song ever written, "Macarthur Park", in which someone leaves a cake out in the rain and Donovan gets worked up in green pyjamas and the chorus boys sashay around with candles on their heads.

Donovan, it has to be said, seems to have lost what little stage personality he had developed as Joseph in the Deamcoat, and turned, well, rancid – while the long-standing Australian drag queen Tony Sheldon, who starts off promisingly as a dead-ringer for Kim Cattrall and descends into big-mouthed anonymity, and Oliver Thornton as the wicked Felicia – look like Friday night acts at the long-ago Vauxhall Tavern.

So, what is this show? It post-dates Mamma Mia! as a reverse attempt (not very good 1996 movie translated to Aussie musical in 2006) to cash in on a juke-box musical format without much wit or cleverness. It settles for a tired old showbiz camp that is acceptable to suburban and Home Counties audiences. It references the Village People. It sort of stinks.

"Good evening, ladies and ladies," we are addressed at the start over the tannoy, "place all your purses under your seats." An obelisk shaped like a lipstick moves upstage. The divas descend from Sydney Harbour Bridge, cleverly evoked by legendary designer Brian Thomson. But that's as good visually as it gets.

The van they must all travel in appears in a surround of pink drapes. En route they bump into horrible people in low-down bars, including a ghastly old lesbian who rotates her breasts like animated bean bags.

Simon Phillips's production is slick, well-organised and fairly enjoyable. But I don't know who it is aimed at. The journey from Sydney to Ayres Rock is a relatively modest one, but this lot have been caught up in a disco fever that doesn't justify their travel passes. Big hand, though, for the finale costumes of shellfish and jungle animals that suddenly appeared as if by osmosis in a presentational void.

Arts and Entertainment
Britain's Got Talent judges: Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden, Alesha Dixon and David Walliams

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral