Below: Tony Sheldon as Bernadette, David Harris as Mitzi, Euan Doidge as Felicia and Ray Meagher as Bob
Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical
Based on the Latent Image/Specific Films motion picture
Presented by Michael Cassell Group and Nullarbor Production in association with MGM on Stage
Directed by Simon Phillips
Musical Director Stephen Gray
Orchestrations by Stephen “Spud” Murphy and Charlie Hull
Choreography by Ross Coleman and Andrew Hallsworth
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Season: September 26-November 4. Duration Two hours and 30 min (includes interval). Booking: www.qpac.com.au or 136 246.
It’s ten years on and Priscilla is still knocking them dead – with the marvellous Tony Sheldon playing Bernadette, the role he created in the original production. Opening night was a joyous occasion as the bright and beautiful show exploded with colour and energy that only happens when all the planets align. And they did that night.
The Lyric Theatre was packed to the rafters with eager fans that cheered at every familiar moment, and even pre-empted some great scenes with cheers.
For me it was a new experience, I did not see either the original production or the movie, so it was fresh, bright, and totally entertaining. The sound was perfect, the costumes out of this world, the music and choreography fabulous and character creation top notch. Even Priscilla, the four-wheeled star behaved perfectly.
It was one of those unforgettable nights.
The storyline was simple: three drag queens take on an engagement in Alice Springs. There’s Tick, or Mitzi in drag, the instigator of the trip who has a reason: he was once married and has a son and an urgent family reunion is set; then there is the older, former Les Girls star Bernadette, a transsexual, who can’t resist the lure of a comeback and finally the outrageously camp witty-bitch Felicia who’s in it for the fun.
So it becomes the bus trip from Sydney to Alice Springs with stops along way in outback towns Broken Hill, Coober Pedy, the Alice and stops at the Black Stump, The Middle of Nowhere and Woop Woop with a finale on the top of Uluru, or Ayers Rock as the script has it.
In the middle of this flashy, colourful show with such over-the-top singing and dancing – who could forget the flying Divas who sang suspended from the fly – ran an undercurrent of softness and pain, the pain of discrimination and the heartbreak of insult. We are allowed below the surface of the flamboyant drag queens to the reality of life as someone different.
It’s here that the acting shines through. Tony Sheldon’s Bernadette shies away from conflict until pushed; David’s Harris’s Tick is still fighting his sexuality and Euan Doidge’s Felicity sets about searching for punishment.
There are many poignant moments as the trio as they face the hostility of outback towns, but the fun always returns to emphasise the indomitable spirit of the trio.
Then we have the outback mechanic Bob, which saw Ray Meagher making a return to the role. Ray of course has been Alf Stewart on TV show Home and Away for 30 years and everyone recognised the face, so Ray cleverly disposed of Alf on his first entrance. “Stone the flamin’ crows,” yelled in true Alf fashion. That got the cheers and packed the character neatly away so he could settle into the lovely role of Bob.
City born Bob had made his life in Woop Woop and had a mail-order bride, the exotic Cynthia, played brilliantly by Lena Cruz. She was a former exotic dancer who was not going let the queens steal her show – and what a show she put on, who will ever forget the ping-pong ball tricks?
Every one of the 30 musical numbers was a hit, filled with love and humour and some tongue in check tilts at attitude – I loved the hilarious interpretation of Thank God I’m a Country Boy in particular.
I could go on and on, but with never a flat moment, suffice to say this is undoubtedly the must-see show of the year.