BILLY SUTER interviews Durban-born actress TARYN-LEE HUDSON (now Buys), who was a knockout recently as the silent movie star with a voice from hell in the excellent touring stage hit, Singin’ in the Rain. Now she and her new husband, Daniel Buys, are among the cast of the eagerly awaited Priscilla Queen of the Desert – The Musical, based on the Oscar-winning 1994 film. Taryn-Lee plays Marion, the estranged wife of drag queen Tick, played by Daniel Buys. Tick and fellow drag queen Adam (Phillip Schnetler), along with Bernadette (David Dennis), a transgender woman, travel across Australia in their bus, named Priscilla, to perform at a hotel in Alice Springs, a gig arranged by Marion. The stage musical – which also features Durban talents Londiwe Dhlomo and Thembeka Mnguni – has its South African premiere at Artscape, Cape Town, on March 26. Presented by Showtime Management in association with Lunchbox Theatrical Productions and Nullarbor Productions, and featuring a 28-member, all-South African cast, the show is in Cape Town until April 23. It then moves to Gauteng’s Teatro at Montecasino – from April 29 to June 18. Tickets are now on sale at Computicket.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO ABOUT BEING IN ‘PRISCILLA’?
The costumes! I love shiny things and these costumes are VERY shiny. There are 500 costumes and 200 head-dresses in the show, so I’m sure it will be nothing short of spectacular.
WHAT IS MOST FUN OR CHALLENGING ABOUT YOUR ROLE?
I think the Australian accent will be a little challenging at first but I’m sure we’ll all nail it just fine.
HOW MANY SHOWS HAVE YOU BEEN IN WITH HUSBAND DANIEL – AND WHEN DID YOU MARRY? ALSO WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF SHARING A SHOW WITH A SPOUSE?
Dan and I got married on October 22 last year, at Netherwood Farm in the KZN Midlands. Incredible venue!
Priscilla will be our third stage show together. We love working on the same shows. I think we respect each other as artists and performers and what we bring to the table. We learn from each other, so it’s pretty cool. It also makes learning lines much easier.
I think the cons, maybe, would be ego. We can’t always both be front and centre, so being able to step back and give your partner the space to shine is important. Like I said, we respect each other professionally so that hasn’t been much of an issue for us.
WHAT, FOR YOU, IS LIKELY TO BE THE HIGHLIGHT OF ‘PRISCILLA’?
Seeing my husband in drag… for sure! The stories we will tell our children and grandchildren will be priceless, backed up by many photographs, of course. It’s also a super-fun show and I think audiences are going to go wild. I’m looking forward to the crowd reaction.
HOW IS DANIEL COPING WITH DRAG, HIGH HEELS AND HEAD-DRESSES?
He will be absolutely perfect. He is a perfectionist and one of the hardest-working performers I know, so I’m pretty sure he will embrace every aspect of it and 100% nail it. Interestingly enough, before we knew Priscilla was even on the cards for us, we had spoken about it being a ‘bucket list’ show for us … and one we would really love to do together. And here we are!
WHERE AND WHEN DID REHEARSALS START?
We started rehearsing in Cape Town from mid-February and continue until late March. We usually rehearse Monday to Saturday, 10am to 6pm , with a break on Sundays.
WHEN LAST DID YOU AND DANIEL PERFORM IN DURBAN?
Daniel was there in 2012, performing at Umhlanga’s Barnyard Theatre, which he remembers as being the first time we met. We actually met two years earlier, but he doesn’t remember. I last performed in Durban in 2010, also for The Barnyard Theatre.
WHAT HAVE YOU AND DANIEL BEEN DOING, WORK-WISE, MOST RECENTLY?
I was in I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change at Theatre on the Bay in Cape Town and The Pieter Toerien Theatre at Montecasino, and then took a bit of a break with wedding planning and a few other side-interests.
Dan was busy playing the lead, Tony Manero, in Saturday Night Fever at the State Theatre in Pretoria, and most recently played Action in West Side Story at Joburg’s Nelson Mandela Theatre.
WHAT PLANS FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR?
Priscilla will keep us busy for most of the year… and then I’m not too sure. We will have to see what opportunities present themselves. I definitely think there is some good travelling involved.
WHERE WERE YOU BORN – AND AT WHAT POINT DID YOU KNOW YOU WANTED TO FOLLOW A SHOWBIZ CAREER?
I was born at Durban’s Parklands Hospital on May 2, 1984. I don’t recall a time when I didn’t think this was the path I was going to travel. My grandparents were musical theatre performers and my family were always really supportive, so I think I always knew this was what I was going to do in some way, shape or form.
WHAT SHOWBIZ TRAINING HAVE YOU HAD – AND WHERE AND WHAT MARKED YOUR BIG BREAK?
I studied musical theatre, drama and dance at The Waterfront Theatre School in Cape Town. I also studied film and acting in America, at the New York Film Academy.
Jersey Boys marked my foot-in-the-door moment. I auditioned in Johannesburg, soon after returning from New York, and no-one had a clue who I was. I thought I had no chance. Next thing I knew, I got the phone call… and the rest is history
WHEN AND WHY DID YOU MOVE TO JOBURG?
I moved to Johannesburg after theatre college, because I believed there was more opportunity for me there.
WHAT NEXT FOR YOU?
I think everyone expects me to say, “babies”… and as much as I would love to have a baby right now, I think Dan and I still have a few tricks up our sleeves. So we are embracing whatever gets thrown our way.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CAREER?
That’s almost an impossible question to answer. I don’t like to choose favourites because I try to take something from each experience.
Jersey Boys was a dream come true. It gave me my spark, my husband and taught me some great lessons. As Jersey Boys alum we call it the show that ruined us for all other shows. It was really just that special, and if you have ever been an audience member, you would have felt it too.
Playing Lina in Singin’ in the Rain was the greatest gift. An unexpected role of a lifetime, it stretched me as a performer like I’m not sure any other role could. I loved playing her and she has been my greatest accomplishment.
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change was pure passion and the most fun I have had on stage. It was hard work, but worth every second. I think I cried with laughter at every show, and left the theatre each night with a beaming smile and a heart bursting with love and pride. The best!
YOUR GREATEST DREAM/AMBITION?
My dreams change constantly. I think Daniel might believe I have a personality disorder. My ambition would be to remain mysterious, playing roles people wouldn’t expect me to play.
I want to challenge myself, keep it fresh and try to stay away from typecasting. Easier said than done,but I really don’t like being put in a box.
YOUR DREAM ROLE?
Elphaba (the green witch) in Wicked and Velma Kelley in Chicago. I think my favourite thing is when someone approaches me with a role that I know nothing about and says, ‘I think you could be perfect for this’. It’s really exciting and challenging.
WHERE IS HOME?
Gosh we don’t really have one, which is also why I can’t have babies just yet. We bounce to wherever we are needed. I think home for us is each other. We live like gypsies. No pets…and I killed a cactus, so no plants either.
AWAY FROM SHOWBIZ, HOW DO YOU RELAX AND UNWIND?
Daniel and I love food, a good bottle of wine and massages. Dan studied cooking and I love to eat, so we enjoy exploring new restaurants.
WHAT FIVE WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOU? AND WHAT FIVE WORDS WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO BEST DESCRIBE DANIEL?
I like to think I’m passionate and loyal. They are characteristics I hold in high regard. I would hope I’m funny. A bit awkward if I’m not. Oh… and awkward! Definitely tenacious.
Daniel is loving, honest, compassionate, headstrong and LOUD! He also loves to call an awkward moment…which makes him the perfect ice-breaker. It’s also why everyone loves him.
WERE YOU NOT IN SHOWBIZ WHAT OTHER CAREER PATH MIGHT YOU HAVE CONSIDERED?
Well, now that I’m an adult (it’s taken a while!), I wish I had listened more in maths and accounting at school. I probably would have liked to have gone into finance… but I don’t think I’m smart enough for that. Maybe own a boutique hotel?
WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO IN LIFE?
Everything happens for a reason, within reason.
ANY OTHER NEWS OR COMMENTS ON ‘PRISCILLA’?
I think it’s a fantastic cast and crew. We’re all really excited about this show and I think it’s definitely one not to be missed!