Priscilla Queen of the Desert (credit Paul Coltas)


By Will Cook

1994’s The Adventures of Pricilla, Queen of the Desert is a timeless, glitter soaked classic for many reasons. The cocks in their frocks shimmied LGBT themes and Australian cinema to a worldwide audience that were captivated by the sequins and mature handling of serious subject matter.

Between Academy Awards and chart success for the disco-pop soundtrack, creator Stephan Elliot created a party musical to excite the non-LGBT ages. Redefining the world to what it means to be an Aussie bloke, the musical has toured internationally, including a two-year stint on Broadway.

After twelve years it’s back to where it all began: the gay-loving streets of Sydney. Pricilla, Queen of the Desert is back biatches.

If you aren’t well versed in the cult film, the stage show’s synopsis is almost identical. Three drags: one young, one old and one hiding a couple of secrets to chug the plot along buy a bus, christened Pricilla of course, and head west from Sydney to Alice Springs. Venturing across the less than drag-familiar Australian outback, the trio encounter the usual concoction of Australian stereotypes drizzled with a touch of homophobia and intolerance.

Despite bursting onto the scene near enough to 30 years ago, Pricilla’s celebratory message of acceptance and holding your head high remains as pertinent as ever. Sadly, some of the plotlines dealing with homophobic slurs also remain timely. While there is some attempt to throw the show into the iPhone age, with nods to Kylie Minogue, the story is an odd mesh of 90s nostalgia and modern commentary that doesn’t quite carry.

Rather than reinvent the musical wheel with new gut busting show tunes, the show’s repertoire is two Acts of tosh shaking LGBT anthems. From the disco ball classics, Boogie Wonderland and I Will Survive, to the ones your parents loved like Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, the show relies on viewers’ willingness to top tap along. A mix of new tracks celebrating LGBT anthems from today may have made Pricilla more palatable for a younger crowd.

Taking to the magical Capitol Theatre stage in the CBD, the show is a glorious array of lights, and glitter. The swirling bus in particular comes alive with a pretty in pink LED light projection. However, the OTT stage theatrics is somewhat counteracted by the acoustics that seemed dull from seats not located at the front.

On stage, the performers are having the type of fun that rivals a Friday night on Oxford Street. Lead David Harris is competent as the mysterious yet somewhat boring Tick who drags his rag-tag drag crew from Sydney to the Alice. Meanwhile the youngest of the three main performers Euan Doidge overshadows Harris’ subdued lead as the Kylie-loving, camper than camp Adam (stage name Felicia). Revising his role from the first stage incarnation of Pricilla, Tony Sheldon is a scene stealer as the drag queen on a comeback trail Bernadette. A class act if ever there was one.

The drag show of all drag shows would not be complete without a killer costume change, or seven. Paying homage to Australia and the 1994 film, the costumes are loud, proud and very very fabulous.

Mixing theatrics with elements of a real drag stage show, the return of Pricilla the Musical lacks the dramatic punch of the cult film. Lines of corny comedy are preferred over genuine plot and character development. Nevertheless, the show is a celebration of all things gay, and really what is wrong with that!

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