Fabulous ‘Priscilla’ Queen of the Desert is here to blow Capetonians away
Presented by Showtime Management in association with Lunchbox Theatrical Productions and Nullarbor Productions and brought to South Africa by BBC First, 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 lifetime through the Australian Outback, to perform in Alice Springs. On the way they find “friendship, love and far more than they ever dreamed of.”
The production has been seen by over five million people and grossed in excess of $300 million worldwide to become the most successful Australian musical of all time. Now it’s South Africa’s turn. Priscilla Queen of the Desert, The Musical’ will be showing in Cape Town at Artscape from Wednesday, March 29, to Sunday, April 23.
The musical is based on the Oscar-winning film, features a hit parade of dance-floor favourites including ‘I Will Survive’, ‘Hot Stuff’, ‘Finally’, ‘Boogie Wonderland’, ‘Go West’, ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’, and ‘I Love The Nightlife’, as well as more than 500 outrageous costumes, 200 headdresses and a 10 metre long customised bus weighing 6 tonnes as its sparkling centrepiece.
Peter Tromp caught up with the phantasmagorical leads of the production on the eve of the show’s run in the Cape Town: DAVID DENNIS, who plays the leading role of Bernadette; DANIEL BUYS, who plays Tick/Felicia; and PHILLIP SCHNETLER, who plays Adam/Felicia.
How have has rehearsals for Priscilla Queen of the Desert been going? What surprised you, and what has proved most challenging?
PHILLIP SCHNETLER: Rehearsals have been amazing. We had four weeks of rehearsing together as a company and we have just started our move-in week into the Artscape theatre. What surprised me most was the dynamic of our beautiful cast. The most challenging part would definitely be getting the Australian accent down.
DANIEL BUYS: I’ve enjoyed establishing relationships on and off stage with my fellow “queens” and slowly seeing this spectacular show take shape. What surprised me is how quickly this show moves and how heavily involved the entire cast is throughout the show. It’s been a great challenge finding my “inner drag queen” – it ain’t easy.
DAVID DENNIS: I have loved every aching step of the high-end, high-heeled journey. It’s a great creative team and fantastically giving cast. Most challenging is coming out of virtual retirement into a high energy spectacular show.
Tell us about your characters and the process you have undergone to realise them.
BUYS: Mitzi/Tick is a vulnerable yet flamboyant guy and finding the right balance has been a difficult nut to crack. He is gay and a drag queen, but was married to a woman many years ago and has a son with her. And although he is a gentle person, the show calls for everyone to be a heightened version of themselves, so staying true to the character and yet still being delightfully camp has been a challenge. It’s a constant work in progress and calls for all inhibition to be forgotten.
SCHNETLER: My character is named Adam, and he has a Drag persona called Felicia. I would say Felicia is Adam’s escape from the real world. Even though he is a very strong willed guy, he definitely feels that Felicia gives him more confidence and he gets up to more shenanigans. He is a very naïve guy, and doesn’t know a lot about life outside Sydney. But he is very hard to get along with, and could be perceived as rude sometimes.
DENNIS: Working with the Australian director and choreographer has been a great privilege. I have learned more than I could have imagined in order to bring the little talent and effort I still have to the process.
What can audiences look forward to in this production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert?
DENNIS: It is faithful to the original story and doubly – nay, thrice – as entertaining as a live show in terms of the singing, dancing and acting components.
Why do you feel ‘Priscilla’ remains relevant almost 25 years after the film debut?
DENNIS: Its thematic content is universal and remains so until tolerance and acceptance of all that is different and diverse in us as a species become recognised and respected as such.
SCHNETLER: Even though people are more accepting of people who are different, I don’t feel they know well enough of what those people deal with on a daily basis, like bullying and name calling etc. Hopefully this show will give people a different outlook and knowledge about those issues.
* Book now at Computicket. This musical contains some strong language and adult themes, therefore parental guidance is recommended for children under the age of 12.
For more information, visit www.showtime.co.za. or read