One of the world’s most extravagant stage musicals, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, adapted from a popular 1994 Australian film, debuts in Hong Kong at the end of September like an exuberant summer-end ball.
An award-winner on Broadway and in London’s West End, the eponymous Priscilla is the name of a battered old campervan that takes Bernadette (David Dennis), a transgender woman, and two drag queens, Mitzi (Daniel Buys) and Felicia (Phillip Schnetler), on the adventure of a lifetime. The story features hilariously bitchy talk, unfortunate societal
prejudice, self-discovery, love, acceptance and, of course, a buffet of pulsating anthems such as It’s Raining Men, I Will Survive and Say A Little Prayer.
It should come as no surprise that a show with such high voltage drag is blessed with fantastic outfits. Priscilla is renowned for its jaw-dropping array of costumes – there are more than 500 of them, as well as 200 headdresses for just 28 actors. Eugene Titus, head of wardrobe for the show and winner of Olivier and Tony awards for Best Costume Design for Priscilla, calls his creations ‘visual storytellers’. He tells us: “What you can expect is a multitude of rapid costume changes with sequins, glitter and feathers, leaving you wanting more all the time but never knowing
what is ahead.”
David Dennis, who plays the leading role of Bernadette, is in equal agreement that the visual flair of the musical is one of its main attractions. “There are some incredibly magical moments,” he tells us, “with changes happening literally onstage and the audience response is always terrific.”
The original film, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, has become a LGBTI classic but the South Africa-born Dennis says the show is not just about sexuality. “Among all the feathers, frivolity and fun,” he says, “there’s a narrative that touches our deeper selves, regardless of who we are or where we come from. It captures even the most reluctant viewer. Audiences are always swept up into a dancing, singing finale, with standing ovations at every performance. [It’s] the best tonic at just the right time in this often gloomy world.” Hikaru Fuji