Priscilla will offer a show "with real heart" in Southampton

Quite apart from all the fun, the big attraction is that it’s a show that’s really about something, a show that’s got real heart.

Joe McFadden - Credit Darren Bell
Joe McFadden - Credit Darren Bell

So says Joe McFadden who plays Tick/Mitzi as Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert The Musical heads to The Mayflower, Southampton (January 13-18).

Based on the Oscar-winning film, Priscilla is the hilarious adventure of three friends who hop aboard a battered old bus bound for Alice Springs to put on the show of a lifetime. Their epic journey is a heart-warming story of self-discovery, sassiness and acceptance.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

And Joe – along with audiences everywhere – is having a ball.

“People are loving it. We are getting such a great response,” says the former Strictly winner. “And the reason is that it is a show with a real story, that’s really got something to say, that has got a fantastic heart to it all. There are some amazing disco songs and it is based on the film, but I think the point is that no one has ever seen anything quite like it before. It was the first time a trans character was brought to consciousness on stage.

“It is all about acceptance, and in these divisive times, we all need a lot more of that. I think the show is the perfect antidote to all that is happening right now in the world.

“I am playing this character called Tick who goes on this journey. He is living his life in Sydney where he is quite unhappy and disillusioned. We discover that he had a wife and child, and she calls him back. So they go on this journey. They are going from Sydney to Alice Springs which is in the middle of Australia which is quite a rough terrain in every sense. They encounter some rough moments and they encounter some homophobia, but it is all about discovery and about realising how important their friendship is. It is a lovely story. There is a moment where there is a homophobic slur written on the bus, and that gets quite a big reaction. Sometimes the audience will boo at that, and I really love it when they do because it really shows that they are with us and that they are sticking up for us. After that, there is a lovely moment where we sing True Colours, and that is one of my favourite moments in the show.

“Obviously film and theatre are very different media. With the film, you can see the whites of their eyes, but our director for the musical wanted to bring out the conflict and the resolution. I think he has made us more sympathetic characters than in the film. They are a lot less abrasive, a lot more vulnerable.”

It all comes at a great time for Joe who has enjoyed plenty of TV successes alongside his Strictly triumph: “Strictly was amazing. But I feel really lucky that I have been able to have a really varied career.

“Sometimes people can get stuck in TV or theatre, but I have been really lucky to breach the two. It is good to be challenged. When I came out of Holby, I very much wanted to do more theatre again. It is really good for you as an actor. It is good to be able to perform under that pressure. It is live and you have got to be able to get yourself out of any problems. You can’t just go again. It is a lot more pressure, but I just love doing it. It is great to get that instant reaction – rather than film where you have got to wait maybe six months to get the response. But I love film as well because every day is different. You get variety. No two days are ever the same.”