REVIEW: Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Sunderland Empire, until Saturday, September 5, 7.30pm

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What do you get if you take one old battered bus, three drag queens and several sets of flamboyant costumes with six-inch heels? Well, one of the best musical theatre experiences I’ve ever had.

On of the face of it, three larger-than-life camp Aussies decked out in gaudy frocks, inch-thick makeup, high heels and over-the-top head gear, travelling around the Australian outback in an old bus, may not seem like much of a plot but, heck, what a great show.

I’ll admit it and say I never actually got further than half-way through the original film version of which the stage show gets its name, but I’d happily go see this again and again.

At the helm of the production is the dry and hilarious ageing transsexual Bernadette (Simon Green) and old friend Tick, played by boy band heartthrob Duncan James who’s swapped a life of singing for stilettos.

I actually saw James in one of his first West End roles in Legally Blonde: The Musical and his transformation to a leading lady is something to behold.

James holds the show with such grace as he struggles between being a father and flourishing around the stage in sequins.

Blue's Duncan James with Priscilla Queen of the Desert gumbies Adam Lyons and Martin Harding at the Sunderland Empire.

Blue's Duncan James with Priscilla Queen of the Desert gumbies Adam Lyons and Martin Harding at the Sunderland Empire.

He has got his Australian accent down to a T and has taken on the lead role head first, despite the fact he sometimes looks out of place with his tattoo-covered body in the outlandish frocks.

Green and James are also very cleverly contrasted against the young Adam Bailey (Felicia), who is ditching lip-syncing and finding his own voice.

As a trio they worked well together, and actually showed a few tender moments in among the crude jokes and outrageous performances.

The whole production was flawless, apart from the fact the battered old bus broke down on stage causing the tech team to spring into action, but it was one of the first times the full bus had been used on stage before.

Technical difficulties aside, this show was full of glitter balls, gay boys and glamorous dance routines, some of which held a very Lady Gaga-esque theme to them.

Each scene was filled with punchy performances of a playlist of instantly recognised jukebox anthems.

I marked that there was more than 15 music numbers in the first act alone.

With Go West, Girls just Wanna Have fun and Hot Stuff just some of the brilliantly reimagined hits called upon to accompany the surreal routines.

And boy, what a fantastic array costumes were on display.

One minute the ensemble was dressed as cupcakes and,the next they were dancing around as paintbrushes or even jumping around as kangaroos.

The camp classic certainly did pull out all the stops on all forms especially with some raw ensemble talent.

A very small but versatile chorus line led the way and stringed the performance together.

Speaking of strings, a special mention should go to the extremely talented Lisa-Marie Holmes, Laura Mansell and Catherine Mort who swung above the stage for most of the show, taking on some real diva classic show tunes.

For me, the only part which lacked show-stopping appeal was the set. It was slightly overworked and relied on rather dull draped curtains rather than creating some impressive scenery.

But, at the end of the day I don’t think there was a single person who didn’t come away without a smile on their face.

Even my friend, who hates musicals, said it was the best show she’d ever seen and I would definitely give it an encore.

The show continues at the Sunderland empire until Saturday. Tickets here.