REVIEW: NE Musicals York’s Priscilla Queen Of The Desert The Musical ****

Feathered finery: Tom Henshaw’s Adam/Felicia, left, Steve Tearle’s Bernadette and Finley Butler’s Tick/Mitzi in Priscilla Queen Of The Desert The Musical

NE Musicals York in Priscilla Queen Of The Desert The Musical, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, until Sunday, 7.30pm nightly plus 2.30pm matinees, Saturday and Sunday. Box office: 01904 501935 or at

YOU must have seen the lipstick-pink banners plastered all over town, pronouncing NE Musicals York’s hotter-than-July production of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert.

“With a cast of 30 and more than 300 costumes, this is not just a bus ride, it’s a two-hour rollercoaster of a ride,” promises creative director and producer Steve Tearle, his beard shaved off to play veteran drag queen Bernadette Bassenger, the Terence Stamp role in Stephan Elliott’s 1994 film that gave rise to this musical spin-off.

Stamp famously gave transgender Bernadette an apples-and-pears Cockney accent despite the setting of the Australian Outback. Blonde-wigged North Easterner Tearle goes for Aussie, although he is sometimes closer to Newcastle-upon-Tyne than Newcastle, New South Wales, but he carries off Bernadette’s regal disdain with such aplomb in his swaggering strut that it matters not a jot.

What’s more, in the tradition of Berwick Kaler’s pantomime dame, Tearle is never averse to ad-libbing, breaking down the fourth wall to comment on one line he dislikes having to say and later pleading to borrow his co-star’s wig to cover his shaven head when he had left off his hairpiece in a rushed costume change, duly bringing the house down.

No misunderstanding: Definitely Jack Hambleton’s Miss Understanding

Both moments in Wednesday’s opening night were very much in keeping with NE Musicals York’s determination for everyone – cast and audience alike – to have a fun, fabulous time, whether being taken by the hand to join in a country dance in the aisles or being a lucky recipient of a gift bag containing a pink ping-pong ball and Ginger Nuts biscuits in a nod to one of the show’s most memorable lines.

Tearle’s direction has gone for spectacle, glamour, flamboyance, drama, boldness and pride, rather than technical perfection, especially in the singing, and is rewarded with performances full of vitality and emotional clout and bags of ballsy humour too.

Big number after big number, from It’s Raining Men to I Love The Night Life, I Will Survive to Hot Stuff, MacArthur Park to the Finally finale, are exuberantly choreographed by Ellie Roberts, and the drag costumes grow ever louder and prouder.

Elliott and co-writer Allan Scott’s musical retains the film’s fearless humanity, frank, fruity humour and fabulous feathered finery while adding a Kylie medley for Tom Henshaw’s Felicia and so many dancefloor fillers.

Show time for Finley Butler’s Tick/Mitzi, Tom Henshaw’s Adam/Felicia and Steve Tearle’s Bernadette

Yet for all that peacock parade and the novelty of a bus on stage, Priscilla Queen Of The Desert is all the better for wearing its heart on its sleeve in its tale of the tiffs and the tantrums, the tears and the fears, the triumphs and the terrors as the three drag queens, Tearle’s waspish Bernadette, Henshaw’s reckless young Adam/Felicia Jollygoodfellow and Finley Butler’s Tick/Mitzi, journey from Sydney to Alice Springs across the Oz outback for Tick to meet Benji (Matthew Musk), the son he has always found excuses never to be with.

Subtlety is not to the fore in Priscilla, but both the script and Tearle’s direction provide just enough, not least in Bernadette’s burgeoning bond with mechanic Bob (James O’Neill) and Tick’s reunion with wife Marion (Melissa Boyd).

Ali Butler-Hind is a scream as Cynthia, Bob’s mail-order bride with her ping pong ball-firing party trick to M’s Pop Muzik. Perri-Ann Barley, Aileen Stables and Julie Blackburn’s Divas, Jack Hambleton’s Miss Understanding and the ensemble relish every scene.

Scott Phillips’s orchestra glistens as brightly as his attire in this Tearle twirl of a dazzling show that parks the bus so much more positively than Jose Mourinho ever did.

By Charles Hutchinson

More Things To Do in York and beyond on not only Bob Dylan’s rough and rowdy days. List No. 91, courtesy of The Press, York

NE Musicals York cast members climb aboard a City Sightseeing bus to publicise their upcoming production of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert

AS Madness and Sugababes canter up to York Racecourse, Charles Hutchinson picks his favourites from the upcoming entertainment runners and riders  

Musical of the week: NE Musicals York in Priscilla Queen Of The Desert, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, July 20 to 24, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday and Sunday matinees

CREATIVE director Steve Tearle’s cast of 30 features Finley Butler, Tom Henshaw and Tearle himself as three drag queens who take an epic journey from Sydney to Alice Springs across the Australian outback in their bus Priscilla.

“The journey is full of drama and dance routines but also so many laugh-out-loud moments,” says Tearle. “There’ll be costumes – 300 in total – that have never been seen before in York and the star of the show, the bus, will take your breath away.”  Box office: 01904 501935 or at

John Cale: Rearranging his gig date at York Barbican

Underground movement of the week: John Cale, York Barbican, from July 19 to October 24, 8pm

VELVET Underground icon John Cale, now 80, is moving his first British itinerary in a decade to the autumn. Tickets for Tuesday – the only Yorkshire gig of his seven-date tour – remain valid for the new date in October.

The Welsh multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer will be performing songs from a pioneering six-decade career that began in classical and avant-garde music before he formed The Velvet Underground with Lou Reed in New York in 1965. Box office:

Bob Dylan’s poster for his Rough And Rowdy Ways World Wide Tour, visiting Hull Bonus Arena

Gig announcement of the week: Bob Dylan, Hull Bonus Arena, October 27

BOB Dylan will play Hull Bonus Arena as the only Yorkshire gig of his Rough And Rowdy Ways World Wide Tour 2021-2024 this autumn.

The Nobel Prize-winning American singer, songwriter and cultural icon last visited Britain in 2017 on his Never Ending Tour. This time the focus will be on his 39th studio album, June 2020’s chart-topping Rough And Rowdy Ways, his first set of original songs since 2012’s Tempest. Box office: hurry, hurry, to

Resting up: Tears For Fears’ Scarborough concert is cancelled due to Curt Smith’s rib injury

One on, one off, tonight: cheers for Richard Ashcroft, Sounds Of The City, Leeds Millennium Square; tears for Tears For Fears, Scarborough Open Air Theatre

IN the Leeds outdoors tonight, Richard Ashcroft, frontman of Wigan’s Nineties’ rock gods The Verve, performs songs from his chart-topping band days and solo career in the wake of re-recording his prime work for 2021’s Acoustic Hymns Vol 1. Gates open at 6pm; support slots go to DJ Wayne and Cast. Last few tickets: .

Shout, shout, let it all out, these are the things they could do without: Curt Smith’s rib injury has forced Tears For Fears to call off tonight’s gig in Scarborough.

Jane McDonald: Letting the light in at York Barbican

Yorkshire favourite of the week: Jane McDonald: Let The Light In, York Barbican, July 22, 7.30pm

WAKEFIELD singer and television star Jane McDonald plays her long-awaited Let The Light In Show in York, rearranged from the lockdown gloom of 2020.

The BAFTA award-winner, Cruising With presenter and Loose Women panellist  will be joined by her band and backing singers for a night of cabaret song, laughter and fabulous dresses. Box office for last few tickets:

Madness this way lies: The Nutty Boys are returning to York Racecourse next Friday

On course for race days: York Racecourse Music Showcase Weekend, Madness, July 22; Sugababes, July 23

CAMDEN’S Nutty Boys, Madness, return to the Knavesmire track next Friday, having first gone One Step Beyond there in July 2010. Once more Suggs and co will roll out such ska-flavoured music-hall hits as Our House, Baggy Trousers, House Of Fun, Wings Of A Dove, My Girl and Driving In My Car after the evening race card.

The re-formed original Sugababes line-up of Keisha Buchanan, Mutya Buena and Siobhán Donaghy are next Saturday afternoon’s act. The London girl group last appeared in York as long ago as 2003 with a line-up of Buchanan, Buena and Heidi Range at the Barbican Centre, as was.

Here come Freak Like Me, Round Round, Hole In The Head, Push The Button, Walk This Way and About You Now et al. Tickets:

Low-key festival of the week: Crawfest, Partings Lane, Ebberston, YO13 9PA, off A170, July 22 and 23, noon to midnight

THE line-up is in place for Crawfest, the family-friendly music festival held on farmland near Pickering, in memory of Alan Crawford, a friend of the organisers, who lost his life to Covid in 2020.

Next Friday will be headlined by The House We Built (9.40pm), preceded by Edwina Hayes (2pm); Paint Me In Colour (3.20pm); Nalgo Bay (4.20pm); Sean Taylor (5.30pm); Breeze (6.50pm) and Friday Street (8.10pm).

Next Saturday’s bill toppers will be Big Me (9.40pm), preceded by Kelsey Bovey (12 noon); Bongoman & The Bongomaniacs (1pm); Danny MacMahon (2pm); Beetlebug (3.15pm); Rocketsmith (4.10pm); Nalgo Bay (5.30pm); Red Box (6.50pm) and The Feens (8.10pm). Box office:

Anne-Marie Piazza and Pete Ashmore in rehearsal for Brief Encounter at the SJT. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Romance of the summer: Emma Rice’s Brief Encounter, in The Round, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, July 22 to August 27

SJT artistic director Paul Robinson directs this new co-production of Emma Rice’s playful adaptation of Noel Coward’s Brief Encounter, presented in tandem with Theatre by the Lake, Keswick, and Octagon Theatre, Bolton.

Rice turns Coward’s film inside out, adding joyous musical numbers and physical comedy while still maintaining the classic love story of the 1945 black-and-white original, where Laura and Alec are married – but not to each other – when a chance meeting at a railway station hurls them headlong into a whirlwind romance that threatens to blow their worlds apart. Box office: 01723 370541 or

NE Musicals York take bus trip to drive home Priscilla Queen Of The Desert is opening soon at Joseph Rowntree Theatre

The NE Musicals York company members on board a CitySightseeing bus on a publicity drive for Priscilla Queen Of The Desert The Musical

NE Musicals York are into the final stages of rehearsals for Priscilla Queen Of The Desert The Musical.

Running at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, from July 20 to 24, creative director Steve Tearle’s production will feature Finley Butler, Tom Henshaw and Tearle himself as three drag queens who take an epic journey from Sydney to Alice Springs across the Australian outback in their bus Priscilla.

The musical was preceded by Stephan Elliott’s 1994 film The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert, starring Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce.

In making the journey to the stage, it revels in such songs as It’s Raining Men, Hot Stuff, MacArthur Park and I Will Survive.

Steve Tearle, Finley Butler and Tom Henshaw in rehearsal for their roles as three desert-crossing drag queens in Priscilla Queen Of The Desert The Musicals

Director Steve says: “The journey is full of drama and dance routines but also so many laugh-out-loud moments. There’ll be costumes that have never been seen before in York and, of course, the star of the show, the Priscilla bus, which will take your breath away.” 

“This musical is one of the best I’ve ever directed; the soundtrack is one of the very best; anyone who sees this show will not be disappointed. With a cast of 30 and more than 300 costumes, this is not just a bus ride, it’s a two-hour rollercoaster of a ride.”

To publicise Priscilla’s desert bus journey ahead of the July 20 opening, the NE Musicals company hopped on board a CitySightseeing open-top bus for a trip around York.

Tickets for the 7.30pm evening shows and 2.30pm Saturday and Sunday matinees are on sale at £15 to £18 on 01904 501935 or at

NE Musicals York cast members publicising next week’s run of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert The Musical