As previously tipped (See The Goss, 31 Jul 2007), the musical stage adaptation of the 1994 Oscar-winning Australian film comedy The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is heading to the West End. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group will co-produce the London production which is confirmed to open in late 2008.

Though a venue has yet to be announced, the new musical is likely to find a home at one of Really Useful’s own West End venues, which include leading musicals houses the 2,300-seat London Palladium (currently housing The Sound of Music, produced by Lloyd Webber), the 2,300-seat Theatre Royal Drury Lane (The Lord of the Rings), the 1,500-seat Adelphi (Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) and the 1,400-seat Palace (Monty Python’s Spamalot).

In Priscilla, Sydney drag queen Mitzi and her two fish-out-of-water friends, Felicia and 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 – which starred Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce – the musical is fashioned around disco hits including "I Love the Nightlife," "I Will Survive", “Shake Your Grove Thing” and "Finally".

Since its world premiere in Sydney in October 2006, the musical has been seen by more than 500,000 people and taken A$40 million at the box office. It opens in Melbourne this weekend. It’s billed as “one of the biggest musicals ever to be staged in Australia”, with over 500 costumes, 55 wigs, 200 headdresses and a custom-built six-tonne bus.

In a statement issued in Australia this morning, RUG chief executive Andre Ptaszynski said: “Often it is the musicals from faraway places that light up the West End most brightly. The sheer joy and good-heartedness of Priscilla will be a breath of fresh air for us. It is time we had an Australian musical and RUG is very proud to be partner on this one.”

Liz Koops of lead producer Back Row Productions said: “We’re very excited to be partnering with one of the most prestigious and internationally successful producers in the world, and we look forward to building on the huge popularity of the show in Australia. With Really Useful Group as our partners, we are confident that Priscilla will enjoy a long residency in the West End.”

The last major Australian import, the adaptation of another screen hit, Dirty Dancing, has broken box office records at the West End’s Aldwych Theatre, where it celebrates its first birthday on 24 October. Preparations are now advanced for its North American premiere.

For the adaptation of Priscilla, 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, writer Allan Scott, set designer Brian Thomson and stage producers Liz Koops, Garry McQuinn, John Frost and Michael Chugg.

- by Terri Paddock