Priscilla: Queen of the Desert is back, and bigger than ever in Melbourne this year. She’s come home, nearly 10 years after the last run in Melbourne, and people everywhere are curling their wigs and gluing on their lashes to see her. I was lucky enough myself to catch the performance on Wednesday, and Priscilla did not disappoint.
The show begins with mundane looking men (mostly) pacing the stage systematically, setting up for a contrast like no other. When the trench coats come off and the beautiful divas are lowered from the ceiling, from the get-go, the stage lights up with bright and striking sequin dresses, setting up the rest of the show to be glorious fun.
Costume design for this production continues to astonish, the glamour of a disco dancefloor, combined with rich creativity from designer Tim Chappel as he delves into the creation of dresses that look like colourful cupcakes and sequinned paintbrushes. The wigs were loud and proud, with as much volume as the amazing orchestra supporting the cast, and the make-up was full of big lips and bold eyes, showcasing the art of drag with precision and ease. The bus, Priscilla herself, was given a modern facelift from her last appearance, with the technological advancement of LED screening, all over the surface, allowing the pink paint to appear dramatically across the bus as they paint it to give their “f*** you” to the vandals who wrote hate speech against them. All this is supported and added to by the original choreography, reimagined by Ross Coleman and Andrew Hallsworth to be just a little bit more ‘Drag Race’-esque. The only thing it could’ve used is a few extra death drops, just to really get the heart pumping.
Tony Sheldon gave a phenomenally warm performance of his classic character, vocally and emotionally. He is the OG Bernadette, and thus his connection with her is immense: something that is very clear to his audience. Having said this, the role has effectively been made around him, and as much as this provides a depth as he embodies a character he knows so well, it does flatten the room for change and adaptation. It may be time for a new Bernadette to step into the kitten heel flippers.
David Harris’ portrayal of tortured-soul Tick is different to many others one might see. He brings a sense of masculinity to the role that is unexpected in such a show. Change is welcome, and this very hetero-seeming portrayal of Tick is definitely a change. This element that he brings to the role does give Tick new character, but I ultimately felt like it detracted from the societal gravity of his situation, meeting his son for the first time. I personally felt like a more feminine Tick would have made his reunion with his son a little more profound, as his son’s acceptance of him would have come as more of a humbling idea. His smooth tenor tones make it all worth it though; his rendition of “I Say a Little Prayer” is enough to break anyone’s heart.
Euan Doidge just gives us everything in the role of Felicia. He is the definition of serving sass and confidence, and gives the trio the energy that makes this show so good. There is little else to say about Doidge, as he just brings the stage to life. Eyes follow him, wherever he may go, because he draws attention to himself with his vibrancy and amazing talent.
As for the ensemble, they just served straight up vigour and dynamite. They had no moment of lull, they were dynamic and made the show the extravaganza it is.
When you see a show like Priscilla, you can’t go into it expecting perfection. You go into Priscilla expecting raving fun, and in this performance, that’s exactly what you get.