The sequins, feather boas and ping pong balls of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert will soon be flying in the West End. WORDS: Erin Miller

Men in drag, bright, feathered costumes, disco tunes, and, um, the odd ping pong ball – The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert is back.

But this time it’s prancing into the West End with Jason Donovan on board the silver bus.

It’s been 15 years since the iconic, over-the-top film – featuring a couple of drag queens and a transsexual on a road trip from Sydney to Alice Springs – won the hearts of audiences.

And while the outback spectacle has had a few tweaks for the London stage, the essence of the original Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert, with all its campness and frivolity, remains.

A perfect fit

Former soapie star and singer Donovan, 40, will be pulling on the platforms to appear as Tick and his alter ego Mitzi – a drag performer who gets a group of drag artists together for a road trip through the outback.

In a case of coming full circle, Donovan turned down the role of Felicia in the film, which later went to Guy Pearce.

He gives a number of reasons for why he said no to the movie, from he’d just finished a stint in another musical, to the fact that at the time he controversially sued The Face magazine over a story that alleged he was gay.

“The whole gay/camp thing was a tender issue, and I didn’t want it to be exploited,” Donovan explains.

“Unfortunately, I took a film called Rough Diamonds, that turned out to be quite rough to say the least. I took the safe bet basically.”

For Donovan, now is the right time to don the frocks and make-up for the stage show.

“It’s been the right way coming to Priscilla, doing the musical in London has been the right mix for me,” he says.

Australian roots

Donovan will be in good company for the London debut of the show.

Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert is hands-down Australian made, arriving on the West End after a sell-out season Down Under.

Renowned Australian actor Tony Sheldon has been squeezing into sequinned costumes and high heels for the past few years, playing the role of transsexual Bernadette in the Aussie stage production.

“I’ve been in the high heels for three years. I have trouble walking in flats,” Sheldon laughs.

While the stacked shoes and outrageously bright costumes will definitely be part of the show, director Simon Phillips, also from Australia, says it was “impossible” to recreate the vastness of the outback.

Phillips says: “We’ve created sort of a drag version of a desert, and a very theatrical version of a hot space.”

Shake your groove thing

As well as the eye-popping costumes, there will also be disco classics, including I Will Survive and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, to get the audience dancing in their seats.

They’re songs that Sheldon admits get a bit too much to listen to outside the theatre.

“I went into Harrods in my first week here and they played three songs [featured in the show] one after the other,” Sheldon chuckles.

“I was bleeding from the ears. When you’re at work it’s not a worry – outside of work it’s horrific.”

With plenty of glitz and Aussie humour, the West End is set to get a good dose of culture Down Under style.

“The onus is on London to be good-natured enough to enjoy it,” Phillips says, adding with a laugh: “Unless the Brits prove to be really poker-arsed about it.”

» Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert’s gala premiere is on March 24 at the Palace Theatre. See