REVIEW: Yes Queens, Priscilla is fabulous

Reviewed by Taryn Utiger

Hold onto your knickers New Plymouth, because the Priscilla bus is finally in town and it’s a wild ride.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert burst onto the stage in all its glory on Thursday night, and darlings, it’s just fabulous.

Dripping in talent and oozing with innuendos, this rollicking romp is a sequin soaked evening of sass and sheer entertainment.

Based on the multi-award winning Australian film that became a worldwide smash hit, Priscilla, directed by Stephen Robertson, is absolutely everything you want from a great night out.

The combination of superb talent, music we all know the words to, costumes we want to own and dancing we wish we could do makes this show one of the best Operatic has staged – and certainly the most fun.

Cameron Douglas, left, Josh Clarke, centre, and Isaac Pawson star in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Photo credit: Chris Hill

Eighteen-year-old Josh Clarke steps (in heels) into his first leading role for Operatic, and he is a brightly shining star. Whatever the X Factor is, he’s got it, yeah baby, he’s got it.

He’s the cock in a frock on a rock, and he’s got the silky-smooth and very long legs to prove it.

He’s also got the sexy and slick dance moves and the great vocals. But, it’s the attitude and personality he brings to the stage that really makes him memorable. That and his entrance.

The mark of a good showman is in his entrance and Josh’s is enrapturing. In fact, it left this reviewer briefly debating whether she wanted to be him, or whether she wanted to take him home.

Josh Clarke knows how to make an entrance.
Photo credit: Chris Hill

Alas, before she could decide she was enthralled again, this time with the highly accomplished Cameron Douglas as Bernadette and Isaac Pawson as Tick/Mitzi.

It’s easy to see why these two men were asked to star in Priscilla for a second time. After a successful season in Christchurch the pair, who must be suckers for punishment, have been plucked all over and then tucked back into their starring roles, and they are just fantastic.

Their obvious talent, their professional training and the depth of their experience, both in Priscilla and in the world of musical theatre, shines through and they are a joy to watch.

Cameron Douglas, Isaac Pawson and Josh Clarke hit the road in Priscilla, a beat-up old bus.
Photo credit: Chris Hill

Cameron and Isaac easily command their own spotlight, and yet when they come together with Josh they are somehow even better. The trio’s rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours is a gentle interlude to the fast paced frivolity of this show, and a highlight of the night.

The queens are supported by a flying trio of diva disco angels. Jess Old, Melissa Peters and Anna Rowe have some impressive pipes on them, and as such get some of the best songs in the show – including It’s Raining Men and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.      

While Priscilla may be about the glitter, the heels, and the fabulous frocks, it is a foulmouthed redneck in a bar who almost steals the show. Queen of Cameos Ann Stewart brings the house down with her mullet, dirty singlet, jiggly chest and flat-noted I Love The Nightlife.  

A cock in a frock on a rock
Photo credit: Chris Hill

Also worth a special mention is John Ainsworth’s portrayal of the gentlemanly Bob, Daniel Lockett’s fierceness as Miss Understanding, Melinda Joe’s hilarious ping pong scene, and the wonderful and lively work of the ensemble, under the guidance of dance captain Alannah Matthews.

It’s not only the people who shine on this stage. One of the most impressive elements of this show is the masterly costumes. They are divine. They are lavish. They are otherworldly.

There are more than 500 elaborate costumes and 200 exquisite headpieces in Priscilla and they are beyond belief. New Plymouth is lucky enough to be using the costumes from the West End production of Priscilla, and they are a real treat to see.

The costumes are one of the highlights of the show.

The costumes are perfectly complemented by a great set, complete with the bus we all know and love, Priscilla. It can’t be easy to get a bus onstage, but it is certainly worth the impact it has.

While LED screens can sometimes be jarring for an audience, the technology works for Priscilla and is particularly effective when the bus hits various marsupials on its journey through the Outback.

Musical director Phillip Malcolm has done an excellent job of bringing the well known songs of this show to life, and the depth the live band provides to Priscilla cannot be overstated. The music fills you with joy and makes you want to shake your groove thing. There were even a few audience members brave enough to sing along with their favourite songs.

This musical has a real feel good factor to it, and it truly is a great night out. The 200 people who helped to create this great piece of entertainment should be proud of their final product, and their contribution to Taranaki’s thriving arts scene. They certainly deserved the full house standing ovation they received on opening night.

There is no doubt that Priscilla will be the talk of the town for weeks, so make sure you’re on this party bus.


Priscilla Queen of the Desert
New Plymouth Operatic Society
June 20 – July 6
TSB Showplace
Reviewed by Taryn Utiger