As previously tipped (See The Goss, 9 Sep 2008), the musical stage adaptation of the 1994 Oscar-winning Australian film comedy The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert will receive its European premiere at the West End’s Palace Theatre, where it will open on 23 March 2009 (previews from 10 March, gala night on 24 March) with a cast led by Australians Jason Donovan and Tony Sheldon, who reprises his award-winning performance from the original production.

Sheldon and 30 members of the Australian production performed numbers from the show at a press launch held at the Palace today, when it was also announced that Brits Clive Carter and Oliver Thornton will co-star in London (See Also Today’s Photos for pictures and quotes from the launch event).

In Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical, Sydney drag queen Mitzi (aka Tick) and her two fish-out-of-water friends, Felicia (Adam) and transsexual Bernardette, are heading west across the desert to Alice Springs in their battered old bus. They are each on their own personal journey of discovery, but together they put on a show unlike anything the locals have ever seen before. Like the film, the musical is fashioned around disco hits including \"I Love the Nightlife,\" \"I Will Survive\", “Shake Your Groove Thing” and \"Finally\".

Jason Donovan drags up as Mitzi/Tick (the part played on screen by Hugo Weaving), with Tony Sheldon as Bernadette (Terence Stamp in the film), Oliver Thornton as Felicia/Adam (Guy Pearce) and Clive Carter as the “quintessential Aussie” mechanic Bob.

After initially finding fame on the Australian TV soap Neighbours and launching a pop career, Donovan has, for the past 15 years, been resident in the UK, making regular stage appearances including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Sweeney Todd, The Rocky Horror Show and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. More recently, he returned to Australia to appear in the play Festen. His first new album, Let It Be Me, is released in November.

Tony Sheldon makes his West End debut in Priscilla. His other Australian credits include Private Lives, Into the Woods, Long Day’s Journey into Night, Torch Song Trilogy and The Producers.

Oliver Thornton’s has previously appeared in the West End musicals Rent, The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables. Clive Carter’s myriad play and musical credits include Take Flight, We Will Rock You, A Man for All Seasons, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and currently at Jermyn Street Theatre, Crooked Wood.

Since its world premiere in Sydney in October 2006, the musical has been seen by more than one million people in Australia and New Zealand and taken over £41 million at the box office. It’s billed as “one of the biggest musicals ever to be staged in Australia”, with nearly 500 costumes, 200 headdresses, 100 wigs, 160 masks, 150 pairs of tailor-made shoes and a custom-built six-tonne bus which alone cost £700,000.

For the adaptation, members of the original film’s creative team – writer and director Stephan Elliott, costume designers Lizzy Gardiner and Tim Chappel, make-up designer Cassie Hanlon and producer Michael Hamlyn – were joined by theatre director Simon Phillips. Plans for a London transfer were originally announced last autumn (See News, 4 Oct 2007). The West End production is presented by Liz Koops and Garry McQuinn for Back Row Productions, Michael Hamlyn for Specific Films, Allan Scott and the Really Useful Theatre Company.

- by Terri Paddock