Priscilla Queen of the Desert is a hit jukebox musical based on the film, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Joe McFadden (Heartbeat, Holby City and Strictly Come Dancing) leads the cast, alongside Nick Hayes and Miles Western.
Whilst these Queens bring the heat to the stage every night, press day was held at the freezing Tiki Bar at the Ice Village. We posed for a few photos, sipped some cocktails, and then decided to do the interviews outside. It was a very weird feeling walking outside, into the cold, and feeling warmer than it did indoors! But alas, we’re not here to discuss the Ice Village.
I asked the cast what it is like playing drag queens, given the current increase in gender fluidity, as well as the success of RuPaul’s Drag Race (which recently came to the UK). Hayes is ‘loving’ this chance to explore gender, especially as the world is slowly allowing people to ‘be who they want to be’.
McFadden said it is ‘lovely’ that people will be able to ‘relate’ to this musical, and he feels a sense of responsibility playing this role. He also told me that they met the insanely talented Divina De Campo a few weeks ago when she came to see the show in Liverpool. Divina is best known for being a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, after previously auditioning for The Voice UK and being one of the 100 judges (alongside Geri Horner) on All Together Now, which I went to see last year. I previously saw her in the musical Dancing Bear, which was also shown at the Palace Theatre. She is incredible, and if she thinks Priscilla is worth watching, it must be!
Western wants audiences to know that they are not ‘jumping on the bandwagon’, rather, ‘the bandwagon jumped on this show,’ as the show is based on a film that is 25-years-old.
Whilst the drag queens both live sing and lip-sync, McFadden told me that all of the singing, minus the opera, is sung live – “the Queens” mime to “the Divas,” who are singing live. Hayes stated that this new production has decided to give each Diva a corresponding Queen, so when one Diva sings, her corresponding Queen will lip-sync. Hayes even named all three of the “incredible” Divas, showing clear appreciation for them and their “giant, diva, belt-y voices”.
According to Western, having to match up with the live singing, which of course can change slightly each night (unlike pre-recorded tracks, which most lip-syncing drag queens use), can be a “bit tricky”, but they have worked hard to manage this, and when I commented that “practice makes perfect”, he replied: “practice has made perfect”.
The three actors also have their own favourite parts of the show. Western loves the finale, which is a “heart-warming” moment for the characters, the cast, and the audience. He believes he, Hayes and McFadden will struggle to get through the number on the final show of the tour.
McFadden loves True Colours, which comes at a time when the Queens have encountered “real homophobia” and come together and find friendship.
Hayes finished by calling Priscilla “a crazy, fun show with huge pop musicals” – he later laughed at his error; he obviously meant “music” – but it also sparks conversations. He stated that they have talked to people from smaller towns and spoke to audiences after the show; he believes that the show is opening people’s minds, which is “quite special”.