Australian comedy-drama The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is one of few films to gain both cult classic status and enormous international acclaim. The story follows three drag performers as they embark on an unusual journey across the unforgiving Outback aboard a pink party bus affectionately nicknamed Priscilla. The story broke away from the rough-rider Crocodile Dundee style popular in Australian cinema at the time of the film’s 1994 release. With its depiction of LGBTQ characters as the central focus, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert both shocked and rocked the world, leaving an indelible mark on the Australian film industry and beyond.
While it ultimately sold well at the box office and received favorable critical reception, the motion picture was faced with numerous production obstacles including a tight budget. Under these constraints, costume designers Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner turned to MacGyver-like tactics to produce the hundreds of outrageous costumes and headdresses needed for the film, developing exotic designs that intentionally mashed the familiar with the fabulous. In fact, the famous flip-flop dress (seen in both the film and the stage musical) cost a whopping $7 and was constructed exclusively out of materials purchased from Target on a penny-pinching employee discount. The two artists’ hard work paid off when they received several prestigious accolades, including an Academy Award and a Tony Award for Best Costume Design (Gardiner collected her Oscar in a self-designed gown made exclusively from golden American Express credit cards and was lauded for its originality).
Overflowing with sequins and set to a soundtrack jam-packed with pop songs and dance anthems, it wasn’t long before the film was adapted for the stage. With a revised book by the film’s director-writer Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert The Musical premiered in Australia in 2006 at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre. The production then transferred to Melbourne then New Zealand before returning to Sydney for a two-year anniversary celebration. The international premiere of the show opened at London’s Palace Theatre, where it enjoyed a successful two-year run and won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical. In 2011, Bette Midler produced the Broadway premiere of the musical with yet more knock out success, receiving two Tony nominations and a win for Best Costumes. Priscilla has since toured nationally and internationally in many countries including Canada, Italy, Greece, Argentina, the United Kingdom and Singapore. Now, the Ogunquit Playhouse is among one of the first regional theatres in the U.S. to produce Priscilla, a production that is also the New England premiere of this
For the Ogunquit Playhouse production, a dazzling array of 300 costumes, 200 hats and headdresses, 60 wigs, and 150 pairs of shoes from the original productions have been shipped to the coast of Maine from halfway around the world! With irresistible hits from the 70s and 80s, the score features enduring pop songs from icons including Tina Turner, Cyndi Lauper, The Village People, and many more. The Ogunquit Playhouse welcomes its audiences to jump on board and hit the road with this wildly fresh and fun musical on a journey to the heart of fabulous!