Theatre Review: Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert – The Musical


Presented by Michael Cassel Group and Nullarbor Productions in association with MGM On Stage
Reviewed 23 August 2018

It’s garish, loud, bright, a little rude, wonderfully over the top and very, very funny: everything a bloody good drag show should be and more – it’s the marvelously gorgeous Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert – The Musical, whose bus has finally arrived, big-time, in Adelaide. Are we ready for it? YES!!!

This stage musical version of the hit 1994 Australian movie classic out-dazzles its sequined costumes (of which there are many), and believe me, with the film’s original designers, Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner at the helm, that ain’t easy.

Director Simon Phillips has a field day pulling out all the stops to make sure that the audience have a ball (sometimes a ping pong one) and somehow manages to bring even more magic to this version than the movie;again not easy – how do you perfect perfection? But this production does! However, Phillips knows just when and how to pull back on the glitz and craziness, also managing to give us ome beautiful dramatic and heart felt moments, especially in Act Two.

This show is flawless; from the direction and costumes/makeup, through choreography (Ross Coleman & Andrew Hallsworth), lighting (Nick Schlieper) and set (Brian Thomson) designs, musical direction (Stephen ‘Spud’ Murphy), all the way up to the absolutely fantastic cast.

Tony Sheldon as trans-gender Bernadette is magnificent and should have not just been nominated for the Tony and Olivier Awards but, in this reviewer’s opinion, won them. We need to believe that this ‘once male’ is now a full blown female, never or rarely remembering that the part is being played by a male – Sheldon sweeps us along, having us believe every second in his ‘femininity. His experience and talent shine through, especially when it comes to getting laughs on just looks and silence alone. A superb performance matched equally by his excellent co-stars David Harris (Tick) and Euan Doidge (Adam/Felicia). Harris is basically the ‘straight man’ (pardon the pun) and carries the role off with dignity and some good humour. His version of MacArthur Park would have the Late Richard Harris wishing that’s how he should have done it. As Felicia, Doidge is the ‘young pup’ drag queen who just loves flaunting his sexuality and idolisation of “Kylie”, sometimes dangerously, to any and every one. His is a delightfully ‘camp’, but nicely restrained performance. Sheldon, Harris and Doig have a very believable chemistry and camaraderie on-stage, that feels as if it probably ventures off-stage as well. Veteran Australian actor, Robert Grubb, rounds out the lead roles well with his lovely portrayal of mechanic, Bob.

This show is cast in the modern trend of having a smallish ensemble who make us believe there are about fifty or so in the cast. This Ensemble are brilliant! There are perfect party pieces from them all and some hilarious little cameos. Special mention must be given to young William Fleming as Tick’s son, Benji (sharing the role with three other Adelaide boys), who blew us away on Opening Night with his very sincere performance. And let’s not forget the star of the show, “Priscilla” – that bus has talent.

Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert – The Musical has it all, including a finale that will make you proud to be an Aussie. The energy that jumps off the stage from all is electrifying and well deserving of the standing ovation received on Opening Night.

So, stop reading this review, put on your best pair of high heels, wig and sequined evening gown (ladies as well) and ‘drag’ yourself along to the nearest bus stop to catch the glorious bus ride that is Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert – The Musical. 11 Lipsticks out of 10!!!

Reviewed by Brian Godfrey
Twitter: @briangods

Venue: Adelaide Festival Theatre
Season: Until 15 Sept 2018
Duration: approx 2 hours 30 mins (including interval)
Tickets: $69.90 – $135.90



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Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide. South Australia's positive news website, proudly supporting the Arts.

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