Priscilla Queen of the Desert – The MusicalLeft – Tony Sheldon. Photo – Ben Symons. Cover – David Harris, Tony Sheldon and Euan Doidge. Photo – Sam Tabone (Getty Images)

Wow!! Absolutely Wow!! 

The 1994 hit movie about two drag queens and a trans-gender woman going over the Simpson desert in a battered bus, translated amazingly to the stage in 2006, exploded on to the Festival Theatre stage at last this week. It was a full 12 years since it first opened in Sydney. It is every bit as raunchy, glittery, rude, slick, sassy, sensational and sequined as the movie, to the absolute delight of the packed and excited audience which leapt to its feet in a roar of appreciation at the final curtain.

The consummate professionalism of every aspect of this show rendered acceptable all of its excesses in language, costumery, volume, wigs and suggestiveness, and as completely congruent with what it stands for. It is a spectacular piece of Theatre. But it stands for more than just spectacle. Through all the glamour and glitz emerges the importance of genuine, deep-rooted relationships, of the acceptance of difference, and the importance of optimism and resilience. It challenges the meaning of love, shows something of the sinister and menacing side of homophobia, and the narrowness of some closed communities, which raises questions as to how far we have really come as a caring, accepting society, and culture in the 25 years since the movie.

And amongst all that, there are of course, raging drag queens, totally over-the-top magnificent costumes and head gears by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner, along with the wonderfully risque humour and the ‘in-your-end-oh’ double-entendre of some wonderful wit, as befits the story and the characters. The three principal characters are exceptionally well played by the widely experienced David Harrisas Tick, the young South Aussie Euan Doidge (with a “body by Baywatch”) as Felicia, and the noble veteran Tony Sheldon in the pivotal role of Bernadette.

The music combines original and recorded songs, lip-sinc-ed or sung live with the orchestra directed by Stephen Gray. Most are fast and toe tapping, (e.g.’Shake Your Groove Thing’, ‘Boogie Wonderland’), but there are some reflective and poignant ones too like ‘Say A Little Prayer’, and ‘Always On My Mind’, for the beautiful scene between the gay man, Tick, (Harris) and his 8 year-old son, Benji (beautifully played by William Fleming in this performance, but one of three who rotate). The choreography (Ross Coleman and Andrew Hallsworth) dynamically matches and sets the pace of the show, and is energetically executed by a superb ensemble chorus.

The lighting (Nick Schlieper) Sound (Michael Waters) the wonderful Bus with its own electronics, and production design (Brian Thomson) all work together under the splendid direction of Simon Phillips, (who is also the stage concept designer) to make a stupendous show, leaving all feeling euphoric and optimistic, knowing and humming “I will Survive!”

Michael Cassell and Nullarbor Productions presents
by Stephan Elliot and Allan Scott

Director Simon Phillips

Venue: Adelaide Festival Theatre | King William St, Adelaide SA
Dates: August 24 - September 15,  2018



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