That celluloid tribute to the conquering spirit of the Australian drag queen, “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” will find its way to the stage in October.
Back Row Prods. and producer John Frost have spent two years negotiating rights to the story of three female impersonators who journey into Australia’s Outback on a bus named Priscilla.
Costumer Lizzie Gardiner will return to the task that earned her an Oscar in 1995, but this time she’s been promised a budget significantly higher than the A$15,000 ($11,000) with which she cobbled together the film’s original wardrobe.
Simon Phillips artistic director of the subsidized, subscription-based Melbourne Theater Company and a veteran opera helmer, has been tapped to direct the show, with the shortened title “Priscilla Queen of the Desert.”
Phillips directed “Urinetown” for MTC in 2004, but this will mark his commercial musical theater debut. Helmer will shy away from casting names in the key roles, saying, “‘Priscilla’ is the biggest name this show has.”
Designer Brian Thompson has the task of re-creating the bus onstage.
Back Row co-prexy Garry McQuinn said Aussies would be employed in key creative positions and, ideally, as the lead thesps.
Directed by Stephan Elliott, the 1994 feature starred Brit Terrence Stamp and Aussie actors Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce.
While industry murmurs have circulated for some time about stage versions of “Strictly Ballroom” and “Muriel’s Wedding,” “Priscilla” is the first of the iconic 1990s Oz pics to undergo a legit retread.
Workshops in Melbourne earlier this year saw Tony Sheldon, Jeremy Stanford and Spencer McLaren in the key roles.
Budget was said to be $4.6 million, but Frost admitted it might stretch to $6.1 million.
Other financial partners include rock promoter Michael Chugg; Thierry Suc of TS&Co., which has taken French rights; and private investors. Seventy-five percent of funds have been raised in Oz.
Pic’s producer Michael Hamlyn is also a producer, as is Allan Scott, who is writing the book with Elliott.
Preem is pegged for Oct. 7 at Star City Casino’s 2,000-seat Lyric Theater.