Theatre: Priscilla Queen of the Desert



Tuesday evening I was at the Whinger's organised evening to see a preview of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. I had been avoiding this musical when it was playing in Australia as the only thing I had heard about it was how the costumes were amazing. When I asked about the book, the music and the acting I just got blank stares. The movie has become a modern (albeit camp) classic and so has the soundtrack. So I guess on one level it seemed somewhat logical to make a jukebox musical out of it... Still it seemed like such a missed opportunity. The casting announcement of Jason Donovan and early bird ludicrous offers of inflated prices for a free programme and cheap champagne didn't make it sound any more appealing, however the Whinger's do book early and so I was locked in...

It was never going to be a night of high art, and with a rather frisky and silly audience there was such a buzz from the crowd that once the music started it was hard not to resist this show. Sure the show makes the movie seem like high art, particularly once the characters are stripped of any realism and there is a song every five minutes (whether needed or not). But when they weren't trying to chew through the plot, every number was such a spectacle of dance and costume and so entertaining that you could just let it sweep you away.

Despite playing caricatures, the cast were great. This included Jason Donovan, who managed even to put in the occasional tender moment in the show. Although having been to a taping of the Graham Norton show last week, I couldn't help but think how similar the two look nowadays... Tony Sheldon reprising his performance of Bernadette from the Australian production was a nice touch. Particularly as Bernadette was dressed in clothes that could have come from the wardrobe of Ita Buttrose... Or Hazel Hawke. The YouTube clip above is from the Australian Production. Unsurprisingly there seems to have been higher production values for the London production...

Seeing the show made me a bit homesick. Not for good old fashioned Australian drag shows however (my experience with Sydney drag queens was seeing a couple of shows at the Albury where they made racist jokes about the Redfern aborigines), but for the yumour. Dead kangaroos, sheilas with big tits and ping pong balls. It was still all there. I guess ultimately you can't forget (or should that be escape) your roots.

The show has started previews and looks set to be a perfect antidote for the recession. With such big frocks and over the top production values you could easily forget about the rising unemployment. Well, at least while this show is in town there will be plenty of work for those in wardrobe. Not to be missed, but best to sit in the circle so you can take it all in...

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