Review byTatum Stafford
Platinum Entertainment’s production of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was a smashing success during its first run in mid-2021 – and now, much to local audiences’ delight, the show is enjoying an encore run at the more intimate Regal Theatre in Subiaco.
Utilising successful elements from its last run, including incredibly glamorous costumes, multiple LED screens with very creative graphics, and of course, the iconic pink Priscilla bus complete with lighting effects that made the wheels ‘spin’, there’s an infectious and joyous energy that strikes as soon as the lights go down and the incredible Miss Understanding (Dean Misdale) takes the stage to welcome us into this glamorous world.
Peter Rowsthorn takes centre stage as Bernadette, with plenty of charm and his trademark dry humour. He waltzes through scenes with a hilarious balance of poise and snarkiness, and is particularly engaging in his more tender moments towards the end of Act II. Cougar Morrison, a renowned Perth drag entertainer, is superb as Tick. It’s clear Cougar has mastered the artform, and it’s almost impossible to tear your eyes away from them in larger scenes, as their energy, precision and flair is so captivating and natural. The third player in this leading trio is Samuel Moloney, who is making his professional debut in the role of Felicia. His voice is absolutely sublime, and perfectly complements his bubbly, enthusiastic portrayal of the most naïve member of the group. Felicia’s moments atop the bus, both in an iconic operatic movement in Act I and in a stirring Kylie Minogue solo in Act II, were personal highlights because of Moloney’s committed delivery, no matter how ridiculous.
The supporting cast were equally as fantastic, belting and dancing to this energetic and familiar tracklist of classics like “Go West” by the Village People, “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor and “It’s Raining Men” by The Weather Girls. The show’s Divas, played by Melissa Gall, Kelsey Skinner, Joanna Rivas and Zoe Crisp, delivered plenty of sass and impressive vocals, Maita Del Mar was a showstopper with her ping pong ball routine in Act II (if you know, you know), and Janelle Koenig gave a hilarious turn as Shirley, complete with a few choice gestures. Luke Hewitt also gave an incredibly touching and heart-warming performance as Bob, and the aforementioned Dean Misdale as Miss Understanding was suitably sassy, and gave Dean the chance to show off their incredible vocals. Utilising local drag talent gives this production a unique and admirable edge – Dean and Cougar are a testament to how talented our local drag performers are.
The ensemble were fantastic and each given moments to shine – an end-of-song backflip by Poppy Bristow on opening night was a clear audience highlight. Choreography by Una Genuino and Para Isidro was full of energy and plenty of fun to watch.
The live band, led by Adrian Soares, provided plenty of gusto and sounded fantastic. Cherie Hewson’s costuming was outstanding and incredibly creative, and definitely provided one of the show’s most memorable moments in the finale fashion show, which featured some classic West Aussie and Aussie icons in outfit-form (think a dress made out of Bunnings aprons, or a top-and-skirt combo called ‘the Bogan’ made from Guns ‘n’ Roses T-shirts).
I was fortunate to catch the show last year, and whilst it was fantastic upon first viewing, there’s something very special and infectious about its staging in this smaller venue. The music booms louder, the sets and costumes sparkle brighter and it’s clear that the cast are having just as much fun as the audience are, with plenty of dancing in the curtain call both onstage and off.
Kudos to this WA-based company for producing such a high-camp, high-glamour and high-quality show!