It’s official. Priscilla Queen of the Desert is still the most colourful musical in town – and with just over a month left to run. In fact, it’s the loudest, campest riot of a show that I’ve seen in years. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. This is a show that has had good money spent on it with high production values – dancers come on and off stage in the most elaborate creations (there are over 500 costumes in the show) – as anything from paint brushes to cup cakes, wearing fabulously created wigs. Based on the film which follows three drag queens on their bus journey from Sydney to Alice Springs, playing Kylie hits along the way, Priscilla has the quickest, naughtiest and wittiest one-liners this side of Adelaide. Director Simon Phillips (an Aussie genius, as bright as the shining Sydney Harbour Bridge lit up in the show) has also selected and interpolated the songs into the show, with some 25 dance classics including Downtown, Go West and, of course, I Will Survive. However, beneath its bold and brassy exterior, Priscilla actually has enormous heart, as the three drag queens face struggles and prejudice, with several poignant moments, especially when one of them realises that the prejudice he thought he’d got used to never gets any easier. It’s an intoxicating mix.

What’s clever about Priscilla is that the three main characters who are thrown together on that bus journey are all such contrasting ladies, so to speak. There’s the older Bernadette (a wistful and moving Don Gallagher), whose been around the block and joins the group following her lover’s death. Then there’s Felicia, the youngest and most outrageous of the trio (original cast member Oliver Thornton), who enjoys causing controversy with his appearance. And there’s Mitzi – real name Tick (don’t ask!) – who initiates the trip in order to catch up with his wife Marion (Selina Chilton, doing an extremely plausible Aussie accent) and his six year old son – now get that. Tick is played with great warmth and belief by silver haired Richard Grieve (who was heart-throb Sam in Neighbours amongst other soap heroes). When the iconic bus appears on stage, there is an audible gasp from the audience, and the bus even gets smeared in paint as the backward residents of Broken Hill turn on the girls who are outside of their Sydney comfort zone. But even when things are going wrong for the girls, the Divas (Amelia Cormack, the up-and-coming leading lady Gemma O’Duffy who I last saw in Spring Awakening, Charlotte Rigby and Lucinda Shaw) are on hand, often entering on wires from the top of the stage to brighten up proceedings even further in commentary and song.

The show gets even better at the first half finale when the bus breaks down in the middle of nowhere and the girls are left stranded....until friendly mechanic Bob – Alf from Home and Away! – drops by to get them back on the road, joining them for the remainder of the journey when his Asian wife Cynthia (Kanako Nokano) disgraces him by hijacking the girls’ performance at his local hostelry. Ray Meagher returns to close the show as Bob following a successful six month stint earlier this year, but is no stranger to British theatre thanks to his yearly panto appearances here – indeed, I last saw him as King Rat doing a hilarious rap in a production of Dick Whittington. Meagher is perfect casting – his Home and Away persona and catchphrase Stone the flamin crows has been the stuff of soap legend for years, and he plays the role with exactly the right level of humour and good nature, making his burgeoning romance with Bernadette both believable and tender. Meagher even gets his own solo moment with A Fine Romance and gamely appears in a kangaroo suit in the finale. Enough said.

Priscilla will end its just under three-year run at the Palace Theatre on New Years Eve and it will be one hell of a party. Indeed, the audience for this show – varied and open minded in the main – are so friendly and when everyone gets up from their seats at the end to dance it’s like one big party. To tell the truth, I was glad to stretch my legs as the seats (even top price stalls) at the Palace are so narrow that anyone over 5’10’’ will get cramp (more investment please, Really Useful Group). Next up at the Palace is the Chichester production of Singin in the Rain with ballet star Adam Cooper and Scarlett Strallen (currently down under playing Mary Poppins in Sydney) and let’s hope that it will retain the glitz and sparkle. Priscilla is a show that could have been disastrously overstated and in grossly bad taste. Instead, it emerges as a true feel-good show with real heart, a rarity in a West End all too often littered with juke-box shows with very little story or reason to hold them together. Nearing the end of an almost three-year run, Priscilla is in great shape and looks like a show that has just opened, full of energy and zest. It’s going out on a high – I only hope that when they pack the costumes away there are no moths in the closet as this show deserves to travel on elsewhere.