Priscilla is Headed for Rockdale

Priscilla is Headed for Rockdale

Image: Cast members Luke Lynch, Brad Clarke and Sage McAteer rehearse a scene from Priscilla Queen of the Desert

In just over two months the Big Pink Bus - as its affectionately known - will arrive in Sydney once again. The Regals Musical Society will present this lavish full-scale musical at the Rockdale Town Hall, in Sydney's south, from September 30, 2022 for a two-week season. Priscilla Queen of the Desert will be the first adult production that the company has produced since March 2020 due to Covid and to say the anticipation and excitement building around this production is huge – is an understatement. Stage Whispers spoke to the Production Team; Kathy Petrakis, Director, Charles Wilkinson, MD and Chris Bamford, Choreographer as well as lead actor, Luke Lynch about the show, what audiences can expect, the relevance and message of the show today and of course the hard-hitting questions about the use of glitter!

Charles Wilkinson - MD

Q: So, Charles, the musical score from Priscilla consists of all songs that are highly identifiable from the ‘80s disco era. How easy or hard is it to translate them into a musical theatre setting and teach to a predominately young cast that may even be hearing some of these songs for the first time?

A: There’s not a song in the show I don’t enjoy - they’re all bops! However, it is super difficult to translate a pop song into written music, let alone with ensemble featuring, but I’ve really enjoyed how the arrangements have been made. The use of ensemble is effective and powerful, and really enhance the songs and the message they’re portraying to convey the storyline. I think no matter how old these tunes are, everyone still knows them, so I’ve had no issues with younger cast picking them up, and if they don’t know them - it’s great education!

Q: What can audiences expect from this particular production of Priscilla?

A: Audiences can expect something really spectacular here with Regals Musical Society’s production of Priscilla. The quality in the performers is exceptional, and really encapsulate the fun, dazzling and groovy nature of Priscilla.

Kathy Petrakis - Director

Q: Kathy, what is the message of the musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and how can we, the audience, relate to three drag queens on a bus?

A: The message of the show is to be able to love and accept yourself in the face of hate, prejudice, and social isolation. While the audience may or may not relate to the drag lifestyle, everyone can relate to wanting to be free to be themselves. In this show, we have three drag queens, already a social minority in the city, travelling through even more small-minded country areas, risking humiliation, prejudice and even violence, for being their true selves. In addition, you have Tick, moving towards Alice Springs to come to terms with another part of himself as a father. Behind the lively music and crazy costumes is a genuine story of self-love and acceptance.

Q: What do you potentially see as the biggest challenges of staging a musical like this?

A: I have to say, the biggest challenge is the costumes! There are over 1200 pieces of costume between the main costumes, headpieces, wigs, and shoes! And they include everything from sexy corsets to showgirl feathers, large cupcakes, and Australian iconic animals. And I am a big fan of sequins and colour so always happen to add more of that if it’s not there already!

And then of course it’s that bus!! Getting it on and off at the right time and working all your choreography and scenes around it!

Q: How are the cast doing? It seems like the majority would all need to be triple threats; how did you find the casting process?

A: The cast are doing an amazing job of combining a lot of dancing, while singing and acting of course! Yes, they definitely need to be a triple threat! But you always find there are cast members that are stronger in some areas than others. Our divas are very strong vocalists, but some can also move well so they join the ensemble in the big numbers. We have some older cast members who have great featured roles but can’t be involved in some of the heavier dance numbers. And then we specifically auditioned dancers who lead the ensemble in dancer numbers as well as feature in the more complicated dance numbers while the cast support them vocally, on or off the stage. That’s what makes a great ensemble – people supporting each other so that everyone looks and sounds great!

The leads all have very unique strengths but also had to fit the character and we were very lucky to find the perfect trio. There will always be one area that will require more effort and work for different people. The important thing is that the production team play to people’s strengths but also give the cast the tools they need to feel confident and comfortable in the areas they’re not as strong in – practice makes perfect!

Chris Bamford - Choreographer

Q: This may sound like a cliched question, however it’s one that must be asked! Tell us about your vision for the show Chris?

A: With Community Theatre I always try to bring a fresh take on the choreography but pay tribute to the original. My vision for the show is to make it as big and colourful and as energetic as I possibly can, my aim is to bring the “campery” to the next level.

The cast sizes are a lot bigger than the original  productions intended, which creatively means I have to rethink and redesign some of the bigger numbers and  some of them are pretty epic numbers, but I also have a wide range of skill sets I have to cater to which is always a fun challenge and that is when I put my dance teacher hat on; I always try to work to the cast skill set but aim to provide an extra challenge for them to work towards. In my experience, cast members are always capable of more than what they think they are, and I always love to see cast members thrive or try new things or get that extra turn or high kick that they didn’t know that they could do. I like my cast walking away from this experience with a new skill set or a confidence they didn’t have before.

Q: And now a very important question: will there be glitter?

A: Of course, there will be glitter!  As I said “campery” at its highest level! It must have glitter if there is not glitter - it isn’t Priscilla!

Luke Lynch as “Tick”

Q: How much of the character of Tick is in Luke the actor and have you used any personal experience to relate to the role?

A: Quite a lot of me is the same man as Tick. We grew up closeted. We instinctively try to hide ourselves when asked to be authentic. Playing Tick felt like little gay me all over again. I’ve loved playing him, because I feel, in real life, we would have been best friends.

Q: What is your favourite scene/ song in the show?

A: Hands down, “True Colours”. It’s been so nice to bond with the cast playing Bernadette and Felicia and expressing ourselves in our shared experiences.

Q: What’s challenging you most about this show/ role?

A: The most challenging thing has definitely been the choreography. I’m an old man who has had a hip replacement, so like Tick I’m a washed-up old diva at the best of times. Fortunately, I’m surrounded by so many talented people who make the show look so much more amazing and I just get to be a part of it.

Book now via

Subscribe to our E-Newsletter, buy our latest print edition or find a Performing Arts book at Book Nook.