21 Jun 2019

West End costumes grace New Plymouth's 'Priscilla - Queen of the Desert'

3:31 pm on 21 June 2019

Award-winning costumes from the original West End production of the hit musical Priscilla - Queen of the Desert are gracing a New Plymouth stage.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert production: Josh Clarke

Josh Clarke plays Adam/ Felicia in Priscilla - Queen of the Desert. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

One of the original West End costumes used in Priscilla Queen of the Desert in New Plymouth.

One of the original West End costumes used in Priscilla Queen of the Desert in New Plymouth. Photo: Supplied

Some of the costumes currently at TSB Showplace still have Australian actor Jason Donovan's name in them.

Based on the 1994 film of the same name, the stage production features more than 500 costumes and 100 wigs, which require an expert especially employed to look after them.

Sarah Buchanan is a Christchurch hair, wig and makeup professional with 30 years experience.

When Priscilla was announced for a run in Christchurch and New Plymouth, she stepped up to care for the West End costumes, which are in New Zealand for the first time.

Ms Buchanan picked up the extravagant outfits in Auckland where she was briefed on their safe-keeping and has been with them ever since.

She said Priscilla presented unique challenges.

"Having so many costumes and a small group of actors, you can imagine everyone is wearing multiple costumes.

"It's fast changes, hair, makeup and costume backstage continually the whole time. It doesn't stop from start to finish."

The frocks are the creations of Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner, the duo who won the Oscar for Best Costume Design in 1995.

Ms Buchanan said it was a privilege to have them in New Zealand, even if they did need a bit of TLC.

"They actually came from the original UK production.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert production: Sarah Buchanan

Sarah Buchanan at work on the Priscilla production. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

"So when we got them, they were a little bit battered but Christchurch spent a lot of time putting them back together, repainting them and sewing.

"So we've got them into a state that's totally immaculate and looking fantastic."

Taranaki teenager Josh Clarke is playing Adam/ Felicia in New Plymouth Operatic Society's production.

From left: Cameron Douglas (Bernadette), Josh Clarke (Felicia) and Isaac Pawson (Tick).

Cameron Douglas as Bernadette, Josh Clarke as Felicia, and Isaac Pawson as Tick in the TSB show. Photo: Chris Hill

The 18-year-old goes from wearing barely anything at all to totally outlandish outfits.

"I never really imagined that I would be wearing costumes from the West End in New Plymouth that's for sure," Josh said.

"I really like the final costume, the big Sydney Opera House one and especially once we do this big finale in that outfit.

"We get to go off and take off the big skirt part and we're just wearing a blue shirt and these kind of shorts and it's kind of the most relaxed, chilled outfit I wear during the whole show, so it's a good chance to kind of relax and come out as myself."

Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Christchurch 2017.

Photo: Supplied

But not everyone gets to dress as a diva.

New Plymouth local Charlie Betts, 11, who plays Benji, has a much more down to earth look.

"In the finale, I have a big kangaroo costume with a big kangaroo head and Michael Jordan sized shoes. It's impossible, yeah, I'm tripping over everywhere."

Whether it be kangaroo suits or ball gowns, the punters love it.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Christchurch 2017.

Photo: © DanielleColvinPhotography / Supplied

Amy Mason could not get enough of it.

"Oh they were really awesome. Very flamboyant - awesome on stage to watch."

Priscilla -Queen of the Desert plays at the TSB Showplace in New Plymouth until July 6, before the costumes wing their way back to the West End.

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