Priscilla Queen of the Desert

The programme notes describe this show as one based ‘excess, exuberance and exaggeration’ and if you knew nothing about the show in advance, this would hardly prepare you for the experience that is ‘Priscilla’. It is flamboyant, funny, a bit rude and a fabulous night out.

The music ranges from ‘It’s Raining Men’, via Giuseppe Verdi, and Ennio Moriccone’s The Good, The Bad & the Ugly, through ‘MacArthur Park’ to ‘Always on my Mind’ and more. The music is skilfully worked into the story of 2 drag queens, Tick/Mitzi and Adam/Felicia, and a transsexual Bernadette, who take their show across the Australian outback to Alice Springs for a 4 week run as a favour to Tick’s friend Marion. Bernadette and Felicia are unaware that Tick is still married to Marion and has a son who he has never seen.

The three travel across the outback and the personal journey of each of them is as important as the physical journey in the bus called Priscilla. Jason Donovan as Tick manages to play both the camp Mitzi together with a nicely judged anxiety about how his son will accept the reality of a gay dad who is also a drag queen. On Monday Adam/Felicia was played by understudy Liam Marcellino and he gave an outstanding performance as the young, brash drag artiste who pushed the boundaries further than the residents of Coober Pedy were ready to accept, and who was subjected to homophobic violence.

Bernadette is elegantly played by Richard Grieve, who shows us Bernadette’s vulnerability as an aging performer as well as her strength of character when rescuing Felicia/Adam from a violent confrontation.

Although the show skims the issues of homophobia and social stereotyping it is primarily light entertainment. Who can forget Shirley’s boobs dancing to ‘I Love the Nightlife’ or Cynthia performing “Pop Muzik”. There’s nothing politically correct about this show but if it broadens minds over gender issues and encourages tolerance of others’ life choices then long may this show continue.

Val Clark