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Wednesday 04 September 2019

Interview: Jason Donovan On His First Time Role As Producer On Brighton Bound Production Of Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Jason Donovan is about to take his first steps in the role of producer, when the new production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert visits Theatre Royal Brighton, later this year.
Credit Darren Bell

Based on the Oscar winning film, Priscilla is the adventure of three friends who hop aboard a battered old bus bound for Alice Springs to put on the show of a lifetime. 

Their epic journey is a heart warming story of self discovery, sassiness and acceptance. 

"I was in a production of The King's Speech, working with a producer called Mark Goucher, and then I did Million Dollar Quartet with him and we struck up a good relationship," says Donovan. 

"He came to me with the idea of me being involved in Priscilla as a producer, and that"s sort of where we"re at with the piece now."

Donovan adds:

"I'm not going to lie to you, the general management of the piece is with Mark's team, but I'm a producer that"s raised money for it, that's been involved with marketing meetings each week, and that"s been involved in the casting and signing off with the set." 

"In the same way that it's not unusual to see Michael Ball produce a version of Hairspray or see Brad Pitt working to produce films, it's not unusual to see actors who've got to a certain place in their career do what I'm doing now with Priscilla." 


Donovan's take on why the story has become such a cult classic on stage as well as the original film he says:

"I think it has universal themes of overcoming prejudice and adversity; it's a modern musical, it's not a 1950s piece. 

"It tackles people wanting to be different and simultaneously the way in which we're all really the same underneath. 

"I think the music is great but it was born out of a great story too. So it's not what I'd call your traditional jukebox musical."

Donovan performed in the cast of the original West End production and two subsequent UK tours and knows how tough it can be taking centre stage in such a demanding role:

"Do you know what? Exhausting. It was like a pop concert each night. 

"It's modern, songs like 'I Will Survive' and 'Finally' are iconic pop anthems that are universally loved. 

"I never got bored of performing it because it is such a great story. 

"As an actor and a musician, and as a singer, you could twist in between the brilliance of the songs and the universality of the story and really get your teeth stuck into the piece."

Donovan has had to hand over to a new cast, seeing Joe McFadden taking on his part:

"So far I've only seen Joe in rehearsal with the kids, Benji, for example, who plays the son in the piece. 

"He's a fantastic actor and his singing in rehearsal sounded great. 

"I've got to be careful with interfering because I have an interpretation of how it should be done after performing it for so long, so I try and take a back seat! 

"Having done it for so many years, I know all the rhythms of the piece, and as an actor you start to discover those as you rehearse and perform it. I think Joe is at the beginning of that process with this show."

Asked if he thinks our understanding of drag queen culture and trans identities has shifted in the years since it was first put on stage, Donovan says:

"I think there's a bit more acceptance of diversity. 

"I think we"ve come a long way since the 80s and we've come a long way since the film. 

"So on a level, yes, you've got things in America like Ru Paul's Drag Race which is mainstream. 

"I think the film and the musical have helped a bit in that shift."

Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical at Theatre Royal Brighton from Tuesday 17th December 2019 to Saturday 4th January 2020. CLICK HERE for tickets.

by: Mike Cobley




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