Divas are from Venus, Drag Queens are from Mars
It’s the frockopera we had to have. This flashy stage adaptation of Stephan Elliott's 1994 hit Oz feature film Priscilla: Queen Of The Desert is as loud, flagrant, athletic and wildly trashy as it’s cinematic precursor- with a few magic add-ons - like the three extraordinary Diva angels who make this show memorable.
For gay, lesbian and trannie audiences it is a coming-of-age musical - well worth the wait for all those decades of imagining suburban drag as a stupendous gender-bending main stage show with real song, real chorus, real acting, real drama, regal venue and an astronomical budget - its arrived! With more heel than Imelda Marcos, more cleavage than Sex In The City, more homoeroticism than The Footy Show and more cheek than Pauline Hanson in a ball gown.
All singing all dancing razzle-dazzle aside, the simple father son story at its heart lingers - a tale of secrets revealed. Tick (Jeremy Stanford) is a Drag Queen named Mitzi, who also happens to be a Dad. Bernadette (Tony Sheldon), an aging Les Girls showgirl once named “Ralph” and the precociously egotistical gay boy Adam (Daniel Scott), a Drag Queen-in-waiting named Felecia who comes of age when in he meets his maker - in the guise of mentor Bernadette. Together the trio travels from Erskineville to Alice, deep into the Red Centre where Tick meets his beautiful son for the first time at the behest of his ex wife Marion (Marney McQueen).
A trinity of soulful Divas suspended high above the world of drag drama grace this spectacular stage show adding a new and original dimension. Songstress trio, Sophie Carter, Amelia Cormack, Christina O’Neill spiral above and beyond the show like Venusian angels belting out show tunes, disco classics and gay anthems lip synched by the mere mortal Drag Queens from Mars below. It’s a clever device, with breathtaking vocals to boot.
Tony Sheldon is incandescent as Bernadette, the elder of the three Drag graces, who alongside the consummate acting, show stopping voices of Daniel Scott and Jeremy Stanford take us light years away from the lip synch empire of Drag - taking us into the starry stratosphere. Stephen Gray’s band propelled us through the journey of soul, disco, ballad and hellraising dance pop with sublimely conceived new takes on old songs like Madonna’s Say a Little Prayer, Joni Mitchell’s folk classic, Both Sides Now and Dusty Springfield’s Downtown.
Cynthia (Lena Cruz) is Bob’s (Michael Caton) talented and rebellious Mail order wife who brazenly announces to the three drag wayfarers from Erskineville - “I do show too”, much to Bob’s chagrin. Cynthia’s has a reputation in Woop Woop. Her dancing pelvic ping pong ball routine to a 1980’s pop song is a runaway scene, which the opening night crowd lapped up, with Cruz’s performance as convincing as it is provocative - attesting to the true magic of musical theatre illusion when things magically pop out of body orifices.
Outrageous costume designs by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner paid homage the wonderful world of visionary Drag design that emanated from the Sydney Drag Scene during the 1980’s and 1990’s. Ross Coleman’s choreographic vision transformed the talented dance ensemble into all manner of genres; from Bob’s dreamy flashback to Les Girls in the swinging 1960’s replete with sequins, diamantes, boas, long legs and feather fountain headdresses to the fleshy soft porn chorus lines during gay anthems like The Village People inspired Go West routine.
It comes as no surprise that Andrew Lloyd Webber is talking shop with the Priscilla crew about taking them to London’s West End – Priscilla the stage show has all the tell tale signs of a Webber spectacle - pathos, tragedy, operatic moments, flesh, romance and heartache. Actual staging includes a (faux) signature Webberesque showpiece - a giant mobile prop - no, not a swinging chandelier - but that gorgeous old bus with more in common to 1970’s disco heaven Studio 54 than a dusty red Trans - desert coach. And when dear Felecia, in one of her Maria Callas moments is lip-synching an aria from La Traviata, nestled in a throne the shape of a giant stiletto, slowly thrust high above and deep into the audience – this reviewer felt the fate of West End Webberdom sealed. Fake nailed fingers crossed!
Thanks to Nick Schleiper’s visionary club land lighting design and Brian Thomson’s stage design flair for garish colour combos, kitsch and campy attention to detail (like the Balinese bamboo boudoir curtains inside the magical Priscilla bus), the show is as eye-catchingly camp as it is toe tappingly fabulous.
Be warned - if you are offended by stereotypes this show may feel like fake nails scratching blackboards - that said, in this media era of South Park and Family Guy where no one is exempt from extreme ridicule or satirie the Priscilla stage show has enough new talent, enough wit, heartfelt drama and precision timing to make this unique Oz Frockopera sizzle.
Priscilla Queen of the Desert – The Musical
Venue: Regent Theatre Melbourne
Dates: Currently on sale until Jan 6 2008
Times: Tuesday to Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 5pm
Matinees: Wednesday at 1pm and Saturday at 2pm
(Subject to change. Please check specific times around public holidays)
All performances (except Wednesday 1pm performance)
A Reserve $99.50* B Reserve $85.50*
Wednesday 1pm only
A Reserve $79.50* B Reserve $65.50*
*Price includes GST and booking fee. Transaction fee applies to phone and internet bookings. All prices correct as of June 2007 and subject to change.
Bookings: Ticketek on 1300 555 593 or www.priscillathemusical.com