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Priscilla: Queen of the Desert - Review

Home > Brisbane > Music | Musicals | Performing Arts | Theatre
by John Andrew (subscribe)
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Pricilla Rules

Ten years ago, Pricilla Queen of the Desert took the stage by storm, nominated for seven Helpmann awards, a Laurence Olivier award, and two Tonys, with a two year run on the West End, and a Bette Midler Broadway production.

Twenty-four years ago, the movie started it all, with its story of three drag queens braving the journey to Alice Springs, in a bus called Pricilla.

And the high energy, gloriously gorgeous, tear-jerking extravaganza has not lost one iota of its impact, once again directed by Simon Phillips and with the return of the simply wonderful Tony Sheldon as Bernadette.

As Simon Parris writes "in terms of inventiveness and sheer numbers, Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner's (Oscar-winning) costume designs fully retain their dazzling impact".

He's not wrong. Add stunning choreography, and amazing almost instant costume changes. The over the top glitz and glamour is superb.

There are a few changes from the original production. This one opens with "It's Raining Men" to roars of audience approval, and delighted gasps as the astonishing backcloths reveal new surprises. The music is delightful and the audience clapped, stomped and with varying degrees of success, sang along – even on occasions being persuaded to dance with the cast on stage.

Just when you think that you have seen it all, three magnificent singers (Cle Morgan, Samm Hagen and Angelique Cassimatis) are suspended in mid-air to add to the energy of the music.

The plot may be thin – but who cares when it is the hook on which is hung a seemingly endless display of inventiveness and a stream of familiar up-tempo songs.

Even the bus has had a face-lift, gaining an over-lay of LED lights, which allow it to change colours, display patterns, and even homophobic slogans, courtesy of the bogans of Woop Woop.

David Harris plays Tick, who we learn was previously married and has a six year old son Benji (played by 10 year old Mason Kidd). Tick is afraid to meet Benji in case he is unable to accept him in his drag-queen role. Not an easy part to play but Harris and Kidd are both superb.

The third wheel to this trio of drag queens is Euan Doige, who plays the damaged and rebellious Felicia – adding some amazing athleticism to the role.

This is not a show for the politically correct – replete as it is with double, possibly triple entendres and zinging one-liners, most of which work brilliantly. But for a show with the core value of acceptance and tolerance the portrayal of stereotypical Japanese tourists and possibly of the Philippino mail-order bride hit a somewhat jarring note – moderated by Lena Cruz's gutsy portrayal of said bride. Will we ever see a ping-pong ball the same way again?

The bottom line is that this may well be one of the best produced, best-performed musicals we will ever see – and one which had the audience engaged and entranced throughout.

Mortgage the cat, sell the kids and enjoy!

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Why? a unique opportunity
When: until 4 November
Where: Lyric Theatre QPAC
Cost: $65 - $165
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