Year of the Queen: The making of the hit show Priscilla Queen of the Desert – Jeremy Stanford

Year of the Queen: The making of the hit show Priscilla Queen of the Desert – Jeremy StanfordYear of the Queen: The making of the hit show Priscilla Queen of the Desert. by Jeremy Stanford
Published by Tale Publishing on January 4th 2018
Pages: 210

After an eight year absence from big musical theatre, Jeremy Stanford suddenly finds himself cast in a leading role of one of the most expensive and eagerly anticipated Australian musicals ever; Priscilla Queen of the Desert - The Musical. Involved from the outset, starting with the workshop of the first script, he navigates the auditions, the nerve-wracking rehearsals and finally, the incredibly fraught lead up to the world premier of this hit show. It's a wild bus trip through a landscape of big personalities, high stakes, tantrums and creative blocks. Along the way he limbers up his rusty musical theatre muscle and investigates the outrageous world of drag as he attempts to recreate the role of Tick, the character made famous in the film by Hugo Weaving. '...reveals a taste for juicy gossip equal to that of any queen...' Steve Dow, Sun-Herald '...not only interesting to theatre fans but also anyone who has seen the movie or ever thought about putting on a pair of heels for the heck of it.' DNA Magazine

Jeremy Standford is guilty. Totally guilty of writing a book I had trouble putting down. Actually, I wish to thank him for this book. It was truly wonderful. To be able to have a behind-the-scenes peak at a piece of musical theatre history is such a precious moment and I had a whole book of moments to read.

I’m not a stage person. Put me on stage and I’ll stuff up, forget my lines and totally change the order of what is meant to happen. I wouldn’t mind making the props but I don’t really have the skills so that’s not going to happen. The chances of me having the chance of being a part of the magic that is musical theatre is as unlikely as me going to the moon. Hang on, slightly less likely. I know I stuff up on stage as I’ve done it. I forget my lines, forget the song we’re meant to be singing; sometimes I’m in the right place at the right time. That’s only one reason why I was so excited to read this book.

We get to see the first workshop of the first script and we continue on until the previews are over. It’s hair raising as there are many things that don’t go well. They have a bus which is a character in its own right, but it throws a tanty and needs a deep reprogram. This throws everything into chaos and the dress rehearsals are cancelled. The previews are used as dress rehearsals except everyone tries not to stop unless things are really wrong. I would have loved to have been there. I was at the 2Cellos concert in Frankfurt last year when they had technical issues. I loved it, not the issues per se, but how they recovered from the problems and how we got to hear little snippets of music as they performed sound checks to see if the issues were still there. Then I got to applaud when they started up again. These are the things I would have loved to see during the previews, and I would have applauded mightily at any opportunity. One thing I can do loudly is to clap.

My heart was in my mouth so many times through this book. When people froze up doing their job and couldn’t be creative, I wished I could have been there to hold their hand. When the bus had a tanty I wish I could have been there to applaud what worked and let my hands tell them they were doing a fantastic job. When Stanford picked up a virus…I’m in awe of stage people, they continue working even if they’re sick. I’m totally ignoring that all this was happening in 2006, a long time before the book was written.

When I google Priscilla Queen of the Desert Musical I find it’s toured worldwide and came back to Australia for a 10th anniversary Australian tour. I can’t find any current production. Maybe it’ll come back another day.

The book was nicely written. It had a sense of purpose and a sense of drama throughout. I really did need sleep and was grateful for the chapters which made it easier to put down. (Note: many of Terry Pratchett’s books do not have chapters, it’s hard to put a book down in the middle of a chapter, but if there are none?) If I’d been on a plane I probably would have forgotten to eat until I was finished. But it’s not long, at 200 pages it’s quite respectable so it would have only taken me a couple of hours of dedicated reading.

Do I recommend it? Totally. Will I be lending it to friends? Only if they can prise it from my cold, dead fingers… Actually, I’m lending it to a friend on Sunday, but he doesn’t know it yet.