Priscilla: we say goodbye as the bus leaves town

So another year has rolled in, bringing with it the promise of new and exciting times. We have an entire twelve months stretching ahead of us to fulfil everything we vowed to achieve the year before, and embrace all the things coming our way that are yet unknown to us. That’s what is so thrilling about a new year, the slate has been wiped clean and it’s all about looking forward to what’s to come, not what has already been.

Of course though, looking forward is all about the new, not the old: “In with the new, out with the old” is the epitome of what New Year stands for. When it comes to theatre, it’s no different. Love Never Dies, Betty Blue Eyes, Love Story, Lend Me A Tenor, Umbrellas of Cherbourg – all these shows which sadly closed their doors in 2011 are now last year’s news and will sit on a shelf in the stacks of Theatreland’s archive room, gathering dust in the shadows as the shows of 2012 dazzle under the spotlight.

There was one show which was claimed just in time to make it onto the shelf with the other victims of 2011. Priscilla: Queen of the Desert knew how to make an exit, going out on New Year’s Eve with a bigger bang (and a lot more glitter) than the fireworks at midnight. Since the closing notice was posted in September, the show’s ‘Priscilla-holics’ have been preparing themselves for that final journey to the heart of fabulousness. Priscilla, perhaps more than any other show in the West End, has an incredibly dedicated fan following. They go to see the show every other week, dressing up in the most ‘fabulous’ outfits; the higher the heels, the bigger the hair and the more glitter/sequins/feathers the better. A friend of mine, Jo, who is a fellow MADTrust-er, is well into double figures when it comes to how many times she has seen the show and she was there on New Year’s Eve to see the pink bus pull out of town for the last time. When I first met Jo, itwas the only West End show she went to see and, although she’s now like Dora the Explorer of the theatre world, Priscilla has always held a special place in her heart. For so many people, ithas such a strong meaning for them. For all its campness, pizzazz and catalogue of popular pop music, the core of Priscilla is about the celebration of LGBT individuals. It highlights the difficulties posed, not only from others, but also themselves and above all, encourages acceptance.

Priscilla brought a lot of good to London’s West End. It was an extremely valid addition to the theatre family and those divine drag queens and delicious divas never failed to bring a smile to someone’s face. It was never dull when the cast were around, that’s for sure. Through MADTrust, I’ve had a number of dealings with them all; as well as organising a late night cabaret at the Delfont Room in aid of the charity (in conjunction with Stonewall), they were also one of the shows involved in West End Eurovision. They brought a level of enthusiasm to the event that was unrivalled and I know they will be sorely missed by the MADTrust team this year.

So while I’m sure many of you are looking forward to the arrival of Singin’ in the Rain at the Palace Theatre, I bet I’m not alone in feeling sad that we have to say goodbye to Priscilla. The absence of that giant sparkly stiletto atop the theatre will rob a big chunk of that fabulousness from Shaftesbury Avenue and Soho will be a considerably less colourful place without our drag queens and divas. I wish I’d managed to tick it off that ‘To-See’ list of mine while I had the chance, but it seems it was not to be; it just goes to show what happens when you take things for granted. Still, I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of that bus yet; after all, it’ll have to keep stopping off to refuel in the odd town or two…

With each passing day, 2011 moves further behind us so, before it falls too far into the shadows of yesteryear, join me in a virtual toast as we say farewell to Priscilla and, most of all; thank you. For everything. You really were fabulous.

By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)

Take a look at the farewell video from London’s final cast of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, courtesy of cast member John Brannoch.

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