Priscilla, Queen of the Desert has rolled back into town to celebrate its 10th anniversary. With a lavish, loveable production, this show is sure to make your face ache from smiling.
The wildly-successful, ultra-Aussie musical is back on our stages after worldwide success. The much-loved story of drag queens travelling from Sydney to Alice Springs in a bus of questionable quality and meeting all sorts of characters along the way has followed the 1994 film’s narrative. They’re going to Alice Springs because they’ve booked a show, and it’s gradually revealed they’re performing at Tick’s (David Harris) wife’s Casino and will also be meeting his 6-year-old child for the first time. This family twist gives this jukebox musical the edge of warmth and endearment that it could have otherwise been missing.
The scathing dialogue, the abundance of love, the lush costumes, the beautiful sets, the sharp choreography, the campest music – this show has heart and splendour to spare. As our three main characters traverse the outback, they realise “they’re not in Kansas” and face difficulties on their way to let Felicia (Euan Doidge) be a “cock in a frock on a rock”.
For those expecting the stand-offish behaviour of Bernadette that Terence Stamp gave her in the film, you will be surprised. Tony Sheldon’s Bernadette is full of love and warmth, and while she still faces conflict, she does so with integrity and respect. Tony Sheldon’s wealth of experience as Bernadette is a treasure to watch and creates one of the most believable performances you could see on any stage, full of tenderness. It’s a testament to Sheldon that his performance feels just as fresh as the rest of the cast’s.
David Harris’ Tick grounds the show and has some of the more earnest moments in the story, the real tearjerker moments, both happy and sad. With a beautiful voice and 20 years’ experience behind him, Harris fits expertly into this character. Felicia is the sassy character, oozing in negative stereotypes of the gay community. Euan Doidge brings an athletic physicality to the role and shines in his big dance numbers like “Better The Devil You Know”.
Angelique Cassimatis, Samm Hagen and Clé Morgan as the fly-in divas are extraordinary. Their huge voices and presence truly live up to the name “diva”.
Robert Grubb’s Bob is endearing and adorable and his love story makes you truly happy for the pair. Blake Appelqvist is fantastic as Miss Understanding, nailing “What’s Love Got To Do With It”. Emma Powell delivers bogan Shirley with such butch bravado, the opening night crowd was howling in response. This ensemble is incredibly talented, and it’s wonderfully exciting to see an all-Australian cast in such a big commercial show in Australia.
This is a spectacular show to watch. From the LED panels on Priscilla, to such gorgeous costumes, the incredible lighting, such rich sound and a cast that are giving their all, you really get swept up in it all. It’s a testament to the whole cast, crew and creatives. The Regent Theatre felt more like a sports stadium when a riotous standing ovation broke through the audience at the bows.
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert will have you shaking your groove thing. It’s impossible to not be happy while watching this show. There’s enough story to tie all these masterful songs together and leave you content, and even in the heavier moments, it’s never overwhelmingly so. You can’t go past Priscilla if you’re looking for a feel-good night of theatre. It’s a show I’ll be talking about for a long time.
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is on at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre until it drives on to Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane.
Photos: Sam Tabone and Ben Symons