A big pink bus has pulled up into Adelaide and it has brought with it a load of shiny things and a cast of larger-than-life characters.
Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical has kicked off it’s run at The Arts Theatre in Angus Street in the city and it’s a joyous, rollicking romp through an avalanche of gay anthems, party tracks & karaoke standards. This is high-energy theatre.
Now, you’d have to be living under a rock (without the c*ck and frock) to not know the story by now so let’s not waste a paragraph on that.
The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of SA as part of their 2023 season are offering this much loved movie turned theatre musical and have produced it with much gusto. Acclaimed Director, Gordon Combes, knows his stuff and has pulled together a wonderful and talented cast that play together on stage magically. Opened with true drag style by Miss Understanding, played by Sean Wright, the tone was set right off the bat. From there is was a roll call of big, shining characters on stage…
Billy St John, as Tick/Mitzi, wins the audience immediately. He display the role wth the depth that is required for the fabulous yet distracted Tick. He plays Tick endearingly and effortlessly sways back and forth between heart felt moments to just generally being a sparkly showgirl! His acting chops are solid and expect to see him much more.
Benjamin Johnson plays Adam/Felicia with gay abandon (so to speak), he’s the annoying, seemingly carefree twink who makes it his mission to provoke for his own bemusement. Benjamin plays his part, with wicked mincing laughter, with over-the-top personailty. His stand-out moment was hands-down the back of the back, silver out-fit, giant stiletto number AND sung with next level prowess by one of the diva’s Vanessa Lee Shirley – just WOW! It was nice for a few moments to see the sensitive side of Adam too however, Benjamin exposed this authentically .
Adelaide’s favourite leading showgirl, Vonni (and real-life Les Girls star), stars as Bernadette, fresh from playing the same role in the Australian production that played Queensland in 2023. Vonni plays the role with an engaging likability as a total pro would. It’s quite obvious the lady belongs on stage, she’s comfortable, confident and apparent she does her homework. Her stage presence is commanding and it’s easy to see why she our evergreen homecoming queen.
The ‘Divas’ are fabulousness, with souring voices (already mentioned the silver ‘Sempre Libra’ operatic piece, they sung with guts that some of those big number truly deserved. Danielle Greaves, Bec Pryor, Charissa McCluskey Garcia and, aforementioned, Vanessa delivered with lashings of shimmering divaness and attitude.
Stand-out mentions: You could NOT think of Priscilla with some of those iconic scenes including the famed and much loved, ‘Well What Have We Got Here Then, A Couple Of Showgirls?’ They were all there. Notably played by Nadine Wood as Shirley (Lady at the bar), Lance Jones as Bob (Bernadette’s love interest), Trish Hendrick as Marion (Tick’s wife), Damien Ralphs as Jimmy (The drag wanna-be) – all carried out with ‘straight from the movie’ perfection. Shout out to the incredible Sam Schroeter as Tick’s son Benji – he delivered us wonderful tender moments that reminded us the important message of acceptance. Ah the things we should learn from children is still missed on us adults sometimes. BUT, I cannot NOT mention the insane skill of Chany Hoffman who plays the hilarious role of Cynthia (The ping pong ball popping extraordinaire), simply just fricken nailed it and had us audience in stitches in everyone of her scene stealing moments. Bravo to all of this cast.
The ensemble was big, which filled the stage, at times, with glorious energy as our eyes were darting around to ensure nothing was missed. They had purpose and did well to match the space filled by the main roles. The many dance routines (by choreographer Sarah Williams) were a feature, coupled with great costumes, dazzled, enthralled us and had a cheering for more.
Musical Director, Jillian Gulliver, served the music on a gorgeous glittery plate by an orchestra of professional musicians. Ranging from Tina’s ‘What’s Love’, Cyndi’s ‘Girls Just want To Have Fun’ and a medley of Kylie through to the finale ’Finally’, they swerved, weaved and entranced us through disco, pop & a handful of ballads. A very talented bunch of folk dwelled beneath the stage.
A tri-zillion costumes & wig changes paraded past us, which were bright, colourful and gave homage to the originals. Kudos to the team behind costume & wigs, it’s never an easy job when a tight budget weighs heavy. That said, budget-wise, many a drag queen has been found in Cheap As Chips sourcing their next look, I mean has you checked RuPaul’s early vibes 😉
Were vocals pitch perfect? Not always. – Was the bus ‘pink’ enough? A resounding ABSOLUTELY NOT! – Were there a couple of tech issues? Sure. – Was it a good show? No. It was great and most of all fun and inclusive, and that was the entire point dahhhhhlings. A 100% joyful night at the theatre which had you singing the songs all the way home. Tra La La…
Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical runs until Saturday 30th September 2023 at Arts Theatre in Adelaide.