Priscilla, Queen of the Desert delights

Jason McMurray as Adam/Felicia with the iconic Priscilla bus. Photos: SUPPLIED.

Proving that you don’t need to travel into Melbourne to experience top quality theatre and queer culture, CPAC Musical Theatre’s production of ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ is guaranteed to make you smile.

For many, the opening night held at the Cardinia Cultural Centre on Saturday 24 April was the first taste of live theatre in over a year.

Opening with gay anthem, ‘It’s Raining Men’, we first meet the Divas (played by Nicola Downie, Stephanie Haigh and Nicola Downie), the trio of singers who do the bulk of the vocal heavy lifting during the show.

Their striking costuming in the opening number, featuring silver beaded raindrop dresses and umbrella hats, were just a teaser to the creativity of costume designer Scott Hili.

Over 200 handmade costumes and wigs were featured throughout the production, which made the audience excited for each scene knowing a vibrant and unique costume was waiting to surprise them in the wings.

However to fully do the beautiful costumes justice, a bit more care for the finer details would have pushed it over the line from looking amateur to professional as it was disappointing to see messy hair not tucked properly underneath wigs in the ensemble.

The set was tastefully Australian, with corrugated iron sliding doors which opened up the back of the stage when needed and the Priscilla bus, so iconic to the film, was well created and presented.

The show’s three leads, Scott Hili as Bernadette, Blair Salmon as Tick and Jason McMurray as Adam shared good chemistry between them and all brought comedy and great acting to their roles.

Hili was a natural on stage, proving he is a triple threat with beautiful singing, dancing and acting in the role first made famous by Terence Stamp.

It appears taking on directing, costume design and set design was not too much of an ask, call him a septuple threat?

Jason McMurray starring moment was surely the iconic scene when Adam is performing opera atop the bus which was very funny.

Aside from the comedy, McMurray was also able to beautifully portray the hurt in Adam after the character is almost sexually assaulted.

Next to the powerhouses of Hili and McMurray, Blair Salmon as Tick had a hard task finding his own way to shine, though his strong moments, particularly in ‘I Say a Little Prayer’, was beautiful and meaningful.

His acting was his strongest talent, particularly in scenes with the very cute and talented Justin ‘Buzzy’ Wilksch as Benji.

Unfortunately, a lot of the punchlines to jokes from all the actors couldn’t be heard due to technical difficulties with the audio, which will surely be rectified for the remaining performances.

Local talent Bryce Gibson’s hostess skills as Miss Understanding was wonderful, with some well delivered Pakenham-centric jokes to warm the audience up.

Gibson, who has experience as a drag performer, had one of the best voices of the night, belting ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It?’.

Danielle Tyler as Shirley was a scene stealer early on in the piece and was unapologetically monopolising all the humour in the Broken Hill scenes and setting the high performance benchmark for the other cast members.

‘Colour My World’ was the stand-out ensemble number of the show, proving Scott Hili’s attention to costuming went beyond the immediate lead characters and the dedication of the cast to rehearsals during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The chorus members had multi-coloured patterned overall style costumes, with art palette headpieces and each ensemble member brandished a giant paint brush for the duration of the dance.

The fact no-one lost an eye proves how well rehearsed the cast was and showcased Kristy Hamshare’s clever and effective prop driven choreography.

The number follows the vandalism of the bus with a horrible gay slur, in which the main three characters decide to paint over in the iconic pink colour which has become synonymous with Priscilla.

The only disappointment was the lighting cue which transformed the bus as have being painted pink faded in following scenes leaving the bus silver once again.

Overall, it was a fantastic performance with a lot of heart, laughs and sequins.

Five shows are remaining on Wednesday 28 April 8.00pm, Thursday 29 April 8.00pm, Friday 30 April 8.00pm, Saturday 1 May 8:00pm and Sunday 2 May 2.00pm.

Head to cpacmusicaltheatre.com/priscilla to book.

*Shelby Brooks was a guest of CPAC Musical Theatre and has performed in shows with the company in the past.