Friday, April 29, 2022



Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical

Written by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott. Directed by Jarrad West. Associate Director Steph Roberts Musical Director Alexander Unikowski. Choreographer Michelle Heine Lighting Design Phillip Goodwin. Sound Design Nick Cossart. Set Design RJames Entertainment. Costume Design Fiona Leach. April 26 – May 22. 2022. Bookings: 62856290.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Photo by Janelle McMenamin

Gloria Gaynor’s I will survive keeps running through my mind. And that is what Free Rain Theatre has done with its latest  fabulous  production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical .In spite of Covid and lockdowns Anne Somes’ production with direction by Jarrad West, musical directions by Alexander Unikowski, and choreography by Michelle Heine dug deep to survive and came up gold. This is a show to raise the spirits, gladden the heart, strike a sympathetic chord and have audiences tapping their feet, clapping their hands and cheering the hugely talented cast and creatives.

  Most people will know the story of three drag queens who jump into a bus called Priscilla to travel through the red heart from Sydney to perform at a concert organized by Tick’s ex wife Marion (Jessica Marchant) in Alice Springs.  What Tick aka Mitzi (Joe Dinn) doesn’t tell his two companions, former Les Girls performer Bernadette (Jarrad West) and Adam aka Felicia (Garret Kelly) that he has a son Benji ( a lively performance from Zavier Martin) whom he wants to see. Old rivalries fester and erupt. Mitzi struggles to restore peace. Redneck homophobia sees Priscilla crudely graffitied and Felicia beaten up before being rescued by mechanic Bob, who tags along for the ride. Eventually they arrive in The Alice where Tick meets Benji, Bernadette and Bob realize that there is a fine romance and all three discover that they belong. Together they face their futures proudly confident with whom they are and finally accepted by those who care.  

Garret Kelly as Adam (Felicia)

From the opening number It’s raining men  sung by Divas Janie Lawson, Hannah Lance and Chelsea Heaney and a powerhouse Ensemble, it’s obvious that this show is raining glitz, glamour and dynamite energy, By the sixth number Go West, Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical is on full throttle driven along by Michelle’ Heine’s exuberant choreography, and blowing gaskets with Musical director Alexander Unikowski’s  band and pit singers Michelle Klemke, Maureen Read, Jo Zaharias and Nikki Fitzgerald. The leads and the Ensemble give full gusto force to a show that burns energy in  this  thrilling production by award winning Free Rain Theatre.

But Priscilla Queen of the Desrt The Musical is much more than a collection of foot tapping, heart pumping and iconic musical numbers. It is about accepting difference and recognizing the humanity common to all whatever the outward appearance or sexual identity. What is so very impressive about Jarrad West’s direction is the quality of the performances from principals and ensemble alike.  Dinn’s Mitzi sensitively embodies the longing for a father to be reunited with his son. West’s Bernadette tremors with the fragility of the aging quean whose beauty and appeal is fading and grief at the recent death of his young lover is a moving reminder of life’s fragility. Kelley’s Felicia is the epitome of gay youthfulness, eager to live his life to the brim of hedonistic pleasure, ignorant of consequence. The casting is superb and the entire company rises to the occasion with performances that take one from the dizzying heights of musical entertainment to the poignant moments of tender empathy. To bring this reviewer to that leaking tear in the corner of the eye is a testimony to a performance that finds its way to a person’s heart. Kara Sellars is a natural comedienne who makes the most of her hilarious moments in the outback pub  Stereotypical prejudice is violently captured in Michael Burdeu’s Frank. The stereotype is effectively challenged by Pat Gallagher’s natural and non-judgemental performance of Bob. 

Jarrad West as Bernadette. Garrett Kelly as Felicia

Special credit is due to the dedicated and talented team of creatives who have vividly brought the production to life. There is magical lighting from Phil Goodwin, accompanied by clever video projections from Pixelwise Media. Fiona Leach’s brilliant costume designs explode with colour and novelty and the stage construction team under designer R James Entertainment ingeniously  bring Priscilla to life. The proof of this production’s excellence is in the detail and nothing has been overlooked to bring first class, uplifting and life affirming entertainment to audiences at the Q Theatre in Queanbeyan. 

Finally, the audience leapt to their feet and some rocked on in their seats to Ce Ce Peniston’s Finally not as a farewell but in the secret hope that Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical would just keep on bussing along. Join the ride. This is one journey you’d be sorry to miss!

 The Band:

Keyboard 1 - Alexander Unikowski

Keyboard 2 - John Yoon

Reeds            Callum Richens

Trumpet -       Sam Hutchinson

Trombone -     Dominic Harvey-Taylor

Guitar        -    Jeremy Tsuei

Bass -             Steven O'Mara

Drums -            Brandon Reed

Percussion -     Jen Hinton/Tim Cole

Photos by Janelle McMenamin