Priscilla Queen of the Desert – the Musical
Andrea Richardson | 23 Nov 2017 17:39pm
(l-r) Ian Theiele-Long, Richard Upton and Alexander Mckinven. Photo: Stephen Russell
This reviewer was pleased to return to the small but perfectly formed Bridewell Theatre for the latest production from SEDOS – Priscilla Queen of the Desert – The Musical. This show saw a West End revival in 2016 and is a popular amateur production, despite the challenges of staging such a flamboyant musical. However, it remains big, bold and brash as ever.
Most people will know the 1994 movie starring Terence Stamp. Stephen Elliott, who wrote and directed the film, co-authored the book / musical with Allan Scott, and has stayed with the original outline. Tick, a Sydney drag queen, accepts a gig in Alice Springs, partly to see his wife and young son. He takes along for the ride fellow drag ‘artiste’ Adam (AKA Felicia) and the maturely transsexual Bernadette. They head off on their road trip on an old bus named ‘Priscilla’. On the way they discover new friends, homophobia, and the truth about themselves.
The show is a two-hour mash up of extravagant performances, fabulous outfits, risqué jokes and clichés. Each scene is punctuated by a bunch of toe-tapping disco classics, such as Go West, Hot Stuff and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, with high energy dance moves from the full ensemble. Sometimes the routines and costumes get quite surreal and don’t really fit the story, but that didn’t seem to matter to this audience. This is as much sbout costumes as content.
The male trio of ‘leading ladies’ do a great job and are all very well cast. Richard Upton as Tick has a beautiful voice and is able to come across as strong but also sensitive when required. Alexander McKinven plays Bernadette beautifully and again is strong but clearly finds his feminine side, with a powerful vocal range. Ian Theiele-Long is stunning as Adam / Felicia – he has a body to die for and has no problems showing it off. The costume not unlike Julia Roberts’ in Pretty Woman is not lost on this reviewer! Vocally very good. All three do an amazing job in high heels and extravagant costumes and look very comfortable moving around. They work well together, producing some genuinely tender moments in among the crude jokes and bitchy one-liners.
Keeping the whole show flowing are the three divas, played by the talented Victoria Greenway, Corin Miller and Skyla Loureda. They accompany most of the performances with backing vocals, do-wops, lots of choreography and some excellent solo numbers too. Their costumes are suitably bonkers – I just hope they wear lighter than they look.
The rest of the ensemble cast do an excellent job of taking on a myriad of roles – one minute disco dancing in sequins, the next dressed as country singers doing line dancing. It is a fast-paced show and, as already mentioned, the costumes do take over. There is at least a 25-strong cast, so a lot of people for such a small space, and they all do well. I saw no uncertainty or accidental crashes on stage – given this was opening night that’s always a bonus. Some stand out more than others but they all work well together.
Very few issues for the writer to mention. A couple of dark spots on stage, both due to lights being wrongly placed or actors not standing in the right position; a few missed sound and lighting cues (first nights are like that). John Bainton as Miss Understanding, the drag show MC, can be even more OTT than (s)he is already, but is excellent in the solo numbers. The handful of lip-synched numbers all need more work to make them match but the ‘Sempre Libera’ did get a huge cheer from the audience.
Huge amounts of praise to Choreographer, Eloise Horton. To take on men in heels, in huge head pieces, flapping costumes and full-on dance routines for over twenty songs is a massive achievement. Especially impressed with Don’t Leave Me This Way, the arm-ography by the Swedes in Go West, and also the full body lift by Tarzan in I Will Survive. McArthur Park didn’t seem as smooth as some of the other numbers at this performance. Overall the whole cast keep pace really well. It is the glitz and glamour that wins over in the end, with a fabulous finale number from the whole company that has the entire audience on their feet.
A brief mention also to the presentation of Priscilla herself; clever use of a simple design and effective lighting.
A quick exit-poll on the audience provided comments such as ‘exuberant’, ‘brilliant’, ‘didn’t want it to end’ and ‘you’ll regret not seeing it.’ My favourite has to be ‘very pink and gay, but the best kind of gay.’
Congratulations to Director / Costume Designer Angus Jacobs, Musical Director Ryan Macaulay and the whole creative team. It might not be as glittery or explosive as a big-budget West End version but it’s just as fabulous.
Go see it!
(Below: visible faces, l-r): Tashman Uriah, Claire Linney, Caroline Scott, Row Turner, Joshua Yeardley, Rebecca Weymouth, Benjamin Thiele-Long, Sarah Berryman and Natalie Harding-Moore. Photo: Stephen Russell