Saturday, 6 October 2007

Priscilla Queen of the Desert – The Musical, Oct 6, 2007

Priscilla Queen of the Desert – The Musical 
By Stephan Elliott & Allan Scott
Regent Theatre, Oct 6, 2007 to unspecified end date in 2008
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Oct 6, 2007

Start squealing, swilling vodka martinis and donning your stilettos, wigs and false lashes – Priscilla has arrived with more sequins, lurex and high-campery than Liberace. 

“A busload of drag queens lost in the desert. Yes, it does sound like a movie.” And, when it comes to colour and movement, the movie doesn’t hold a fairy-lit candle to the stage show.

Three drag queens (Tony Sheldon, Jeremy Stanford, Daniel Scott) drive a battered bus from Sydney to the Alice Springs Casino to perform a drag show. Stephan Elliott, with Allan Scott, adapts his original movie to include live disco songs, mischievous showgirl/boy choreography  (Ross Coleman) and the wildest costumes (Lizzy Gardiner, Tim Chappel) since Lion King. We see feathers and fans to rival Siegfeld’s Follies, dancing paintbrushes, patty cakes and Australian flora and fauna. Every element is perfectly calibrated, exotically designed and imaginatively directed by Simon Phillips.

But the night belongs to the travelling drag queens played by Tony Sheldon (Bernadette), Jeremy Stanford (Tick/Mitzi) and Daniel Scott (Adam/Felicia). Sheldon’s portrayal of Bernadette, an ageing transsexual from the 1960s Les Girls, balances her heartfelt emotion and her need for subdued, middle-class elegance with her veteran’s skill gained from years of drag shows.

Tick instigates the girls’ journey to Alice Springs, where his ex-wife (Marney McQueen) manages the Casino entertainment, in order to to make first contact with his small son. Stanford is deliciously bold and sassy as Mitzi, Tick’s drag persona, but plays the off-stage Tick with grace and poignancy as he pines for his unknown son. His rendition of I Say A Little Prayer and Always on My Mind are moving.

Daniel Scott fully inhabits the audacious young Adam – stage name Felicia. His flying entrance is exciting and his leather-boy routine to the disco hit, Venus, is outrageously sexy. We fear for the insolent Adam when he is bashed by toughs in Coober Pedy.

Michael Caton is warm and lovable as Bob and the trio is supported by the exceptional voices of the Divas, three female angels who sing suspended above the stage. The enormous volume and richness of the production could not exist without the talented ensemble and versatile band (arrangements – Stephen ‘Spud’ Murphy), evocative production design (Brian Thompson) and lighting (Nick Schlieper).

The chorus numbers are vivid, daring and over-the-top and the hits just keep coming: Don’t Leave Me This Way, Go West, I Love The Nightlife, I Will Survive, Pop Muzik and Shake Your Groove Thing. There are delectable cameos by Colette Mann, Lena Cruz and Trevor Ashley as Miss Understanding singing What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Priscilla is littered with camp innuendo, lip-syncing, disco and impertinence and, man, it’s a fab night out.

By Kate Herbert

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