BY BILLY SUTER
TWO drag queens and a transgender woman. A lavender bus topped with a giant stiletto. A desert peopled with some oddballs. Some of the whackiest costumes ever seen on screen. And a great deal of laughs and heart…
All found place in The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, the surprise delight that was the 1994 movie from Australia, a film starring Guy Pearce, Terence Stamp and Hugo Weaving.
It went on to scoop an Oscar for costume design and so wowed the world that a stage musical seemed inevitable.
So it came to pass that in 2006, the Simon Phillips-directed and Ross Coleman-choreographed original production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical debuted Down Under – at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre.
The show then went to Melbourne and Auckland, which led to a two-year season on London’s West End, then a Bette Midler-produced Broadway season.
Wikipedia reports that the original production received one out of its seven Helpmann Award nominations, and the show was also nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award for best new musical, as well as two Tony Awards, taking statuettes in the costume design categories.
Now South Africa is to experience the phenomenon that is Priscilla.
Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical, an all-SA production, is to be staged at Artscape, Cape Town, from March 26 to April 23, then at Johannesburg’s Teatro, at Montecasino, from April 29 to June 18.
Presented by Showtime Management in association with Lunchbox Theatrical Productions and Nullarbor Productions, the show has been hailed as “vivid, daring and over-the-top” and “hugely entertaining … insanely glitzy”.
It tells a heartwarming and uplifting tale of three drag artist friends who hop aboard a battered old bus, aka “Priscilla”, and go off on the adventure of a lifetime through the Australian Outback, to perform in Alice Springs.
On the way they find friendship, love and far more than they ever dreamed of.
With some 500 award-winning costumes, 200 extraordinary head-dresses and a parade of dancefloor favourites – including I Will Survive, Hot Stuff, Finally, Boogie Wonderland, Go West, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and I Love The Nightlife – this wildly fresh and funny musical is a journey to the heart of all that is ab fab!
Showtime Management’s Hazel Feldman says in a press release: “Priscilla is the ultimate ‘feel-good’ show. This dazzling musical has all the ingredients for a superb night out: the most wonderful costumes, outrageous glamour, music that will have you dancing in your seat and a funny yet touching storyline.
“No wonder this show has been such a massive hit from the West End to Broadway and beyond.”
The 28-member cast, live band, crew and creative team will give audiences a night of unforgettable performances, nostalgic music and an entertainment experience with all the sparkle to share in Priscilla’s “fabulousness”.
The principal role of the transgender Bernadette will be played by David Dennis, who has achieved prominence in leading roles from classical to contemporary and musical theatre, to film and television, over the past three decades (Pirates of Penzance, Starlight Classics and movies 10000BC, Winnie and Zambezia).
Daniel Buys (Jersey Boys, West Side Story, Saturday Night Fever) plays Mitzi/Tick, Phillip Schnetler (Saturday Night Fever, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) plays Felicia/Adam, and James Borthwick (Sunset Boulevard, Evita and some 200 other productions) plays Bob.
Additional roles are played by Taryn-Lee Hudson (Singin’ in the Rain, Jersey Boys), Chantal Herman (Little Shop of Horrors, Evita, Noah of Cape Town and Candice van Litsenborgh (Annie, Sweeney Todd, Sunset Boulevard).
Also in the cast are Candida Mosoma (The Lion King, Sister Act, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat), The Voice SA finalist Thembeka Mnguni (High School Musical, Grease) and Durban-born Londiwe Dhlomo (Cabaret, Little Shopof Horrors, Puss in Boots). They portray the show’s three dazzling divas.
The ensemble features a host of multi-talented local performers including Tshepo Ncokoane, Zane Gillion, Michael Fullard, Michael Wallace, Craig Hawks, Samuel Hyde, Henk Opperman and Darius Engelbrecht
Original Priscilla international director, Simon Phillips, and choreographer Andrew Hallsworth, will be coming to South Africa to mount the show, together with resident director Anton Luitingh, musical director Bryan Schimmel and resident choreographer Duane Alexander.
Note that the musical contains some strong language and adult themes, so parental guidance is recommended for children under the age of 12.
Booking is now open at Computicket.