High heels and high notes for Priscilla star

The fabulous and divalicious Priscilla Queen of the Desert is hitting the stage in New Plymouth next month! Taranaki Community News caught up with one of the stars of the show, Josh Clarke.

Hey Josh! Congratulations on landing lead in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Can you tell us a little bit about your character?
Thank you so much! I’m honoured to have the opportunity to portray such an iconic and charismatic character.

I play Adam Whitely who is an energetic, entertaining and wonderfully foul mouthed bundle of rainbows. He is a performer through and through and will do almost anything for a laugh. However, once the wig is on, Adam becomes the glorious Felicia and even knows a little bit of Italian.

Are you learning to walk in heels, or wear loads of make-up, or slide into fishnets?
I actually have some previous experience in high heels and wigs. I was also in the 2016 cast of Sister Act for NPOS and had a cameo role as a drag queen in a bar.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert opens on June 20 at the TSB Showplace

I think that even that small piece of prior experience was really important for me because it made me feel more comfortable with the outfits I’ll be wearing for Priscilla, and trust me, being comfortable in our costumes is not as easy as it might sound.

Do you remember when you first discovered Priscilla?
It might come as a surprise that I’ve never actually seen the full film. I made the decision to stop myself from watching it because I didn’t want to give myself any preconceived idea of how my own version of Adam would be played.

I’m really doing all I can to make it a unique and memorable experience for the audiences. However, I will admit that I have watched small clips of the most iconic parts of the film to ensure I do them justice. My favourite part of the show is the song True Colours by Cyndi Lauper – I just think that song is beautiful in any context.

You’re only young, but you already have quite a history in theatre. Can you tell us how you got into the theatre and what you’ve done in the past?
I hear all the time that I’m only young but I feel like I haven’t done enough still. I’m the type of person who always wants more and it’s the same with performing arts. I think my thirst for learning and self growth was what started my journey in the arts.

My first real connection with acting was at Devon Intermediate in the arts academy. My teacher would make us do an acting exercise called theatre sports, which is kind of an umbrella term for an array of improvisation games. I remember I felt so alive and challenged by them because they were so in the moment and required fast thinking.

From there I started classes at Stage Centre, performed in local plays and musicals from Wheelers Luck in 2014 to Opera Meets Broadway in 2019 and even tried my hand at cabarets. I consider myself blessed to have had so many wonderful opportunities to take people (the audience) on adventures and help them escape their reality, even if only for a moment.

Being the lead at such a young age must be both exciting and a bit nerve-wracking. How do you manage those nerves?
This is something every single person will have a different answer for.

I think the best way I have found to deal with nerves and worries prior to a show is to remind myself that it’s not my job to be absolutely perfect and the audience aren’t there to judge me.

My only job is to tell the story in such a believable way that the audience forget about their worries and troubles and become enraptured in the story I am telling.

If you think outwards about your cast, crew and audience it is much harder to spend time worrying about yourself.

It takes about 200 volunteers to make Priscilla come to life

What do you get up to when you’re not on stage?
What don’t I get up to? I am at the gym, playing video games, watching science videos, listening to Joe Rogan’s podcast, playing football, training in mixed martial arts, spending time with family and friends, cycling and blah blah blah!

I have an overly active imagination which means I’m always searching for new things to do. I love learning and just experiencing everything this world has to offer. Especially nature and sports.

If you could be in any show in the world, and play any role, who would it be?
Aaron Burr – Hamilton. Evan Hansen – Dear Evan Hansen or Jughead Jones –Riverdale.

Why should people come along to Priscilla?
I try to be as candid as possible and I honestly believe that this cast and show are just absolutely infectious with their energy and fun.

This show also tells an important story of acceptance, love and diversity – which is something that will never grow old.

Can people follow you on social media?
Yes! @joshaclarke on everything! Also shout-out to the panda squad! I love you guys ❤

MAIN PHOTO CAPTION: Josh Clarke is playing Adam/Felicia in New Plymouth Operatic Society’s next production, Priscilla. Photo credit: Chris Hill