After a phenomenal run in Cape Town, Priscilla Queen Of The Desert made its Johannesburg debut at Montecasino’s Teatro theatre recently. Honestly, I didn’t know much about the story besides the fact that it was a ‘drag show’ of sorts. Drag isn’t really my thing so I was a bit apprehensive to watch this production but after attending the show’s opening night, I can safely say this is easily one of my favourite South African productions of all time.
Priscilla Queen of the Desert is a heart-warming and uplifting tale of three drag artist friends who hop aboard a battered old bus aka “Priscilla” and go off on the adventure of a life-time through the Australian Outback, to perform in Alice Springs. On the way they find friendship, love and far more than they ever dreamed of.
Local actors Daniel Buys (Tick), David Dennis (Bernadette) and Phillip Schnetler (Adam) did a phenomenal job as the show’s leads. Daniel gave a great performance of Tick – the more subdued, less extravagant character of the three. He carried out the story well and shone as a normal guy as well as when his on-stage persona Mitzi Mitosis came to life. However, it was David and Phillip who stole the show. David played the perfect Bernadette. He hit every aspect of her character on the head from the subtle movements to the voice and, naturally, the performances! He was such a treat to watch and it was great seeing the character grow throughout the scenes.
Meanwhile, Phillip was born to play Adam – or Felicia as he likes to call himself. He really brought out the emotion, the fabulosity, femininity, confidence and sex appeal that the role required. He was so entertaining to watch and I honestly don’t think another actor would have given this role as much justice. James Borthwick, who plays Bob the mechanic, was another stand-out role and one which I really enjoyed.
Another aspect I really enjoyed was the vocal talents of ‘narrators’ and lead singers Candida Mosoma, Thembeka Mnguni and Londiwe Dhlomo. They brought the pizazz to the show! With their flawless vocals, they belted out some cheesy pop hits and added a spectacular element to the show.
Speaking of the music – the show is a gay man’s heaven! There is a whole lot of Kylie Minogue (duh!) blended with hits such as I Will Survive, Hot Stuff, Finally, Boogie Wonderland, Go West, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, and I Love The Nightlife. There’s even a Thai ping-pong performance that will have your belly ache from laughter! The thing is, the musical direction the production takes is perfect and will have audience members belt out the popular tunes at the top of their lungs.
The music, however, is elevated with the show’s incredible costumes and props. This production requires an array of spectacular costumes and the team behind the show spared no cost to make sure this element is flawless. With a dazzling array of over 500 award-winning costumes, 200 extraordinary head-dresses, 45 wigs, 120 pairs of shoes and a massive amount of glitter, the show had every bit of the glam you expected it to have. The costumes are phenomenal and add so much value to the story being told. In fact, it’s great to see that so much of the budget was spent on making sure that this aspect of the production was perfect.
Besides the costumes, the sets were fantastic as well. Less was totally more as simple backdrops set the scene in the many desert and pub/club scenes the production had. What was totally jaw-dropping, however, was the massive bus used as Priscilla. Despite a few technical difficulties, the bus was kitted out with lights which were used in such a clever way. That, alongside the beautifully designed interior, made Priscilla the star of the show.
Priscilla Queen Of The Desert is easily one of the greatest local productions I have ever seen. It’s fun, sassy, colourful and full of heart. Everything from the acting to the vocal talent to the costumes, make-up and sets was top-class. This is a show you need to go see.
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