Sunday, December 23, 2018

PRADA'S PRISCILLAS - An All-Male Christmas Revue


Produced by Joseph Panuccio - Directed by Monique Kelly
Choreographed by Stephen Clarke
Canberra Theatre, 21st December 2018.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Prada Clutch and company in "Prada's Priscilla" 

How refreshing to attend a drag shows which doesn’t rely on coarse language for its laugh’s. For her Christmas musical extravaganza, “Prada’s Priscillas”, Sydney drag queen, Prada Clutch, had done her homework. Targeting a general public audience, she had prepared a witty script, sprinkling plenty of local references among her saucy double entendres, and dazzling her adoring audience with a constant parade of eye-popping costumes and production numbers.
Prada Clutch in cockatoo mode leads the opening number in "Prada's Priscilla"

Though this was her second foray into Canberra, judging from the response to her request for a show-of-hands from those who had seen her before, most of the audience were Prada Clutch virgins, more than ready to gasp at the extravagance of the costumes, ogle her four hunky male dancers, be delighted by her two supporting showgirls, Conchita Grande and Christina Dior, and be impressed with the overall professionalism of her show. 

Conchita Grande and dancers in "I Need Some Hot Stuff" 
The first half of “Prada’s Priscilla’s” was a tribute to the musical, “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”.  Prada wore an astonishing white cockatoo costume to lead the company through “I Love The Nightlife”. Conchita Grande performed “I Need Some Hot Stuff”, costumed in glittering red and gold sequins, surrounded by the male dancers as cheeky lizards making the most of their swinging tails. These were just two of the highlights.
Prada Clutch presenting her tribute to "Les Girls" 

Unusually for a drag queen, Prada Clutch does her own singing. Her gorgeously costumed impression of Cher singing “If I Could Turn Back Time”, and the tribute to Les Girls in which Clutch led the whole company, all  costumed in eye-popping white and silver ostrich feather costumes, would not have been out-of-place in the Folies Bergere
As well as providing additional eye-candy, the four male dancers really could dance as they demonstrated in an energetic production number, “Singing in the Rain”. Elsewhere, they added zing to the show executing Stephen Clarke’s demanding choreography with enthusiasm and style.
Prada Clutch and Company presents her Christmas Medley 
The final section of “Prada’s Priscilla’s” was devoted to a selection of cleverly staged Christmas songs among which Prada’s performance of Barbra Streisand’s tongue-twisting version of “Jingle Bells” almost stopped the show.
Prada Clutch presents her finale 

One slight disappointment was the absence of background settings and projections suggested by the publicity photos. In Canberra the show was presented in front of black curtains, relying on the costumes and lighting to provide the spectacle. However, such was the standard of the show that the absence of settings and some steps or simple risers to provide interesting entrances for the showgirls and dancers, the choreography and stagings for the production numbers began to look repetitive as the show wore on.

But even despite this quibble, with its over-the-top glamour, extravagant costumes and wigs, excellent production values and tightly choreographed production numbers, “Prada’s Priscillas” continues a long tradition of lavish Australian drag shows which harken back to the glory days of Sydney establishments such as “Les Girls” and “Capriccios”.   Prada Clutch has indicated that she is keen to build an audience for her shows beyond Sydney. Judging by the audience response to this performance of “Prada’s Priscillas”, if she can maintain the standard set with this show, there is an audience out there hungry for the extravagant fantasies she offers.

Prada Clutch 

All photos provided.
This review also appears in Australian Arts Review.