In 1994 a charming man gave me a cassette tape with music from the film Priscilla Queen of the Desert. I hadn’t yet seen the film, but I loved the soundtrack. As it turned out, I also fell in love with the charming man and 24 years later we are still together.
I have since seen the film many times and it has made me laugh as well as cry for various reasons, because it is that kind of story. It touches you, deeply, when you least expect it. But until now, I had never seen the musical version of the story. Needless to say, my expectations were high.
Fortunately, all expectations were met and surpassed during the intense ride that leading ladies Mitzi/Tick, Felicia and Bernadette take us on.
The story it goes like this: Tick (sensitively played by David Harris) asks Bernadette (Tony Sheldon) and Felicia (Euan Doidge) to accompany him on a journey from Sydney to Alice Springs where they will perform their drag show as a favour to Tick’s wife. The fact that Tick has a wife is news to the drag queens and they are quick to joke about this.
The banter between the three leads is one of the highlights in the musical, as it is in the film. The expedition hits snags along the way, including homophobic small-town violence and mechanical problems with their pink bus (which is where the name Priscilla Queen of the Desert comes from) but they never give up dancing and dressing for the occasion.
The musical adds new elements such as the three divas, whose powerful singing adds weight to the music, which includes ‘70s classics such as “It’s Raining Men”, “Boogie Wonderland” and “I Will Survive”.
The atmosphere on opening night was brimming with the joy of being treated to costumes galore, from the minimal to the outrageous, and beautiful performances from all involved, including young William Fleming who played Tick’s son Benji.
I cannot recommend Priscilla Queen of the Desert highly enough. It’s the best musical I have seen in years.
Priscilla Queen of the Desert is showing at the Festival Theatre until September 15.
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