Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical.

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical.
By Allan Scott and Stephan Elliott. Free-Rain Theatre Company. Directed by Jarrad West and Steph Roberts. The Q, Queanbeyan. 16 April to 22 May 2022.

Best known for the movie about two drag queens and a transgender woman taking a fantastically redecorated bus to Alice Springs to strut their stuff, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert has undergone major transformations in becoming a stage musical with Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott, the musical’s adapters, taking the opportunity to make the entire trip an all-singing, all-dancing entertainment. And Free-Rain made the most of the embedded dance tunes, of which there were many, most both well-known and well-loved.


The plot may hardly be worth mentioning other than to say that it deviates from the movie by its emphasis on the characters’ sexuality and lack of discrimination, rather than on their personality clashes, which in the movie bring such entertaining tension. But the musical numbers, which probably filled the majority of stage time, are another thing altogether. Under Alexander Unikowski's musical direction, “Spud” Murphy’s fine arrangements for the pit band and pit singers came to dynamic life throughout. The three leads — Jarrad West as Bernadette, Garrett Kelly as Adam, and Joe Dinn as Tick — did a very creditable job on their combined songs: “True Colours”, “Shake Your Groove Thing”, and “We Belong”.


The ensemble was in good voice for the entire show, lifting such numbers as “Don’t Leave Me This Way” and “Macarthur Park” to new heights and thoroughly energising “Thank God I’m a Country Boy”, “Go West”, and “Boogie Wonderland”.  A couple of other trios came across pretty well too, singing in harmony, and Steph Maclaine stood out singing part of Verdi’s Sempre Libera (Free Forever) from La Traviata, synonymous for many with images of Priscilla travelling through the desert with the silver high-heeled shoe in all its glory on top of the bus.


Besides the musical sophistication, this production’s outstanding strengths, though, may lie in its clever set design, its numerous spectacular costumes, and its plethora of big show-dance numbers, sometimes surprising in complexity.  The latter were most engaging and evidenced some hard individual training, choreographic imagination, and great stage coordination.


John P. Harvey


Images: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical.  Photographer: Janelle McMenamin.

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