As soon as the house lights dimmed, I knew we were in for a magical evening; the orchestra struck up and the theatre was illuminated with beautiful mirror-ball lights, dazzling the Oxford audience, and setting us up for the wondrous night ahead.
I saw Priscilla a couple of years ago at the New Theatre, so I knew to expect high camp and hilarity in heels. But there is so much more to this show than sequins and screaming drag queens. It's about tolerance and compassion as well as different kinds of love, whether between friends, romantic love, or that of a father and son.
The three leads worked well together, especially considering Craig Ryder had to come to the rescue in the lead role of Tick/Mitzi, due to Duncan James recovering from emergency surgery. Ryder was outstanding, as were his co-leads, Simon Green (a poised and ravishing Bernadette, with the sharpest of tongues) and Adam Bailey (a manic, bitchy Adam/Felicia), and I was fully engrossed in the ups and downs of their journey across the Australian outback.
Another three stand-out performances were that of the three Divas, descending grandly from the heavens, singing with such power that it was easy to believe that they were supernatural beings and not simply mere mortals in wonderful wigs.
A glimpse of Miss Understanding (played by Matt Crandon in tonight's performance) as our host in Downtown Sydney had me flashing back to the sheer joy that swept through me during my first viewing of the show. We don't see much (or indeed enough) of Miss Understanding but her hilarious and accurate Tina Turner impression is a memory that will never leave me.
It's so difficult to choose a favourite character or scene from this spectacle of a show that had me smiling so widely and constantly from start to finish, that my mouth is still aching now. But special mention must go to Julie Yammanee (Cynthia, Bob's mail-order bride). Her exotic stage show to Pop Muzik is screamingly funny, enhanced by the terrifying edge to her singing, a raspy aggression that she delivers with panache.