Already fans of the 1994 film, my cousin Johnny took me on my fortieth birthday to see Priscilla Queen of the Desert, premiering at the Palace Theatre in London’s West End. Two dedicated Disco Queens (pun very much intended) since our 1970s childhood, we were treated to the stellar line up of Jason Donovan and Tony Sheldon in a dazzling production of camp heaven. Since then, Johnny has gone on to see it a dozen more times, both in the West End and on tour. So it was logical that he should be my partner for Worle Operatic and Dramatic Society’s (WODS) spin on the Playhouse dance-floor in their ambitious production of our dear Priscilla.
This is the story of a long and dusty journey in Priscilla the Bus from Sydney by two drag queens, Felicia aka Adam and Mitzi aka Tick, and a transgender woman, Bernadette, to Alice Springs, where they will perform on stage in Mitzi’s wife’s casino. At least that’s the ruse that Mitzi uses, neglecting to tell his friends that the son he has never met is also at the end of the 2,800 kilometre journey to this remote desert town. A road trip in every sense, Priscilla is laden with self discovery and new beginnings. A hilarious script, set to a dynamite disco soundtrack, populated by outrageous costumes and fun props, WODS have got this oh so right.
From glossy programme to top notch outfits to a sublime set (and a glorious looking Priscilla herself, who very much comes alive), there is nothing about this production that says ‘amateur’. This is Flamboyance itself! The cast of WODS are many and they are clearly having an absolute ball up there singing and dancing and being generally fabulous, working as a team and supporting each other all the way. The three leads are well cast: Will Taylor as Felicia has all the boyish cheek and sense of fun that his character should; Weston-born Craig Sillick is a warm and likeable Mitzi with a very good voice (His rendition of ‘True Colours’ will bring a tear to the eye) and Mike Purnell is as close to a perfect and believable Bernadette as you’re ever going to get – his constant play off with rival/friend Felicia reeks of fine comic timing by both.
The Divas will make you fall in love, all three very different and appealing in her own way but the stand out voice and sexy demeanour of Natasha Green is of professional calibre – listen out for the classic MacArthur Park sung by the Divas, Bernadette and Tick – “I have waited all my life for this!’ – and the Disco staple “I Will Survive’ sung by, well, everyone. The bustle on the Weston Playhouse stage is as warm as this June day; the smile remains on my face for almost the entire show and I laugh out loud too many times to count.
Johnny said that this WODS production was better than the pro tours he has seen and this is actually the first time that any amateur company has been bold enough to tackle it. The cast and crew certainly earned the standing ovation that the audience threw upon them. This is lavish, immense fun and very well done. A production that could do its very own sparkly tour. Bonza Mate!
Right, I’m off to play some Earth, Wind and Fire …