Priscilla Queen Of The Desert - The Musical (The SOB Review) - Lyric Theatre, Sydney, New South Wales, AustraliaPriscilla Queen Of The Desert - The Musical (The SOB Review) - Lyric Theatre, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
*** (out of ****)
Last evening, nearly three months into its ever-expanding open-ended Sydney run, I took in Priscilla Queen Of The Desert - The Musical, which to be honest can be very difficult to describe to any neophyte not familiar with the 1994 film on which it's based.
It's a sexy, silly, sometimes incoherent, über-campy, often tasteless and crude, completely over-the-top musical if there ever was one. Yet it's ultimately irresistible. And with many of the key motion picture elements roundly being eagerly anticipated and cheered upon delivery -- including the infamous ping pong scene -- the musical itself is, well, a ball.
Just when you think that the book (by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott) is teetering dangerously close to the brink of excess, you're either suddenly lurching back to some semblance of reality or finding yourself cheerfully going along for the ride wondering just how far into fantasia this tuner will dare to go.
Sure, it lacks any of the movie's truly subtle moments, and there's nary a trace of ABBA to be found (Kylie Minogue is this version's heralded icon), but with magnificently choreographed numbers by Ross Coleman of everything from the downright anti-funereal "Don't Leave Me This Way" to the celebratory "Go West" to the campy country "I Love The Nightlife" to the giddily glam "Finally," this Priscilla pulls out all the stops to ensure a good time is had by all.
Surprisingly, the one exception is the desert routine practice from the movie, but that's easily forgiven thanks to numbers like my personal favorite -- with which I finally submitted myself to the evening's wild ride -- "MacArthur Park," a showstopping number that reminded me a bit of how Mamma Mia! delightfully shoehorned songs into the show with groan-worthy lead-ins.
Part of the success of that number, as well as each of the other huge dance sequences was one delicious costume send-up after another by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner, the duo whose creations appeared in the silver screen version. It should be noted here that Chappel knows something of this genre, having earlier been one half of a pair of male dancers called Earring in support of a drag queen.
Naturally, the mark of any good show is the acting. Here, Tony Sheldon offers a remarkably brilliant Bernadette, the trannie who's given up hope of ever finding a lasting love. Although the normal leads for Tick/Mitzi and Adam/Felicia were out last evening, their understudies -- David Spencer and Nick Hardcastle, respectively -- provide convincing and endearing portrayals of the other two members of the queens of the desert.
Yet it's the outstanding supporting performances by Michael Caton as Bernadette's would-be suitor Bob and Genevieve Lemon as Broken Hill's Shirley who practically steal the show. Caton offers such a genuinely heartfelt portrayal giving the show some essential gravitas; Lemon on the other hand successfully satirizes a domineering outback bigot who gets her comeuppance from Bernadette.
This is by no means a perfect musical, but it certainly is a wildly entertaining romp and just plain gay, literally and figuratively.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).
Click here for tickets.
Priscilla Opens Down Under (October 14, 2006)
Finally! Stage Musical Version of Priscilla - Queen of the Desert to Roll into Sydney (July 5, 2006)