Theatre Review: Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert is still frocking fabulous (at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre)

It’s been over a decade since Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert made its theatrical debut. And the film itself doesn’t look a day over 24. This feel-good story about three drag queens leaving Sydney’s big smoke to go west to Alice Springs is still one fun, glittery and rollicking bus ride.

The latest production brings together the show’s original creative team, save for the late Ross Coleman. This production is again directed by Simon Phillips and sees Tony Sheldon reprise his stage role as the transgendered Les Girls alumnus, Bernadette. Sheldon brings pure heart to his mother hen-like role as the leader of an unlikely group on an incredible mission.

The journey is originally floated by Tick (David Harris) who is contacted by his estranged wife (Adèle Parkinson). She implores Tick to come to the Alice to meet his 6-year-old son, Benji. But Tick is concerned that Benji won’t accept him for what he is. In this version, Harris puts in quite a tender and capable performance as Tick but he plays him a little too straight, especially for a role that was immortalised by Hugo Weaving.

Rounding out this gaggle of drag queens is Kylie Minogue’s biggest fan, the flamboyant and brattish Felicia (Euan Doidge, Kinky Boots) who brings some dazzling acrobatics to the role. This wayward trio hop aboard Priscilla, a clapped-out silver bus that gets a makeover enroute to look fabulous (and cover up some homophobic slurs that are courtesy of Broken Hill’s Bogans and bumpkins.) This is achieved very effectively with some great LED lights.

The bus isn’t the only rich visual display on offer here. The costumes are so eye-popping and glamorous, darling. They are designed by the Oscar-winning creative team, Lizzy Gardiner and Tim Chappel from the original film. But everything is bigger, bolder and more statuesque here. If that’s not enough to get you on-board this magic bus then the songs are absolute show-stoppers too. The soundtrack features a wide array of pop and disco classics like “It’s Raining Men,” “Go West,” “I Love The Nightlife” “I Will Survive” and “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” These are often lead by three divas (Cle Morgan, Samm Hagen and Angelique Cassimatis) who belt out these fine tunes despite being suspended above the audience for the most part.

The script includes lots of cheeky one-liners, sexual innuendos and double entendres. These are quite humorous for the most part. But the same cannot necessarily be said about some of the casually racist jibes like the mail-order bride (Lena Cruz is an absolute trooper) and stereotypical tourists. Audience’s sensibilities have changed and we have become a lot more politically correct since the original source material was written by Stephan Elliott.

Priscilla is all about promoting and celebrating tolerance and acceptance with one big, lavish party. In a way it’s a colourful chronicle of how far Australian society has come and a reminder of where further progress is required. Years on, Priscilla, Queen of The Desert remains a fast-paced, vibrant and endlessly colourful night out with the girls.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

The reviewer attended the performance on 13 May 2018.

Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert is playing now at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre. For more information and tickets please visit: www.priscillathemusical.com.au/