While the RZ has been hard at work pounding away on his master’s thesis, the marketing team behind the upcoming West End production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert did some pounding of their own, this time at the hearts and wallets of group bookers, press, and industry insiders. The RZ had the fortune to attend the launch presentation, and figured that he may as well opine about it as he does everything else.
First, what happened? The launch consisted of speeches from the producers ("we're all going to need a joyous show next spring"), the director (who talked like every nightmarish prat director you could imagine), and the four key UK cast members, who include Jason Donovan and Oliver Thornton, who recently stank up the West End as emo posh boy Mark in RENT: Remixed. The audience were also treated to three production numbers by the Australian cast (yes, they paid to fly them - and their costumes - over). The choreography was dazzling and the costumes truly amazing - it’s rare for that aspect of design to sell the show, but sell it will.
What we didn’t see, however, was anything from the book. Yes, we were told that it’s full of Australian humour and that they’re shifting the role of Tick’s son from being a surprise plot twist in the film (which the RZ hasn’t seen), but the audience never saw or heard any of it. Yes, the RZ knows that it’s the musical numbers that sell shows, and we’re talking about a film adaptation which doubles as a jukebox musical, but even a minimal amount of dialogue to lead into the numbers (think what’s on most cast recordings) would have gone a long way towards quelling doubts.
The big issue, in the RZ’s mind, is of course the one that drives his evil American eye, namely the pricetag. Priscilla is undoubtedly expensive to stage, and those costs are being passed onto the audience in full, with new record-setting highs for West End pricing: tickets start at £20.75 for the highest and most vertigo-inducing balcony in the West End, and the stalls max out at £65.75 for standard tickets on weekends. “Premium” seats, continuing their assault from New York, are £85 on weeknights and £95 on weekends. No, that’s not a typo and yes, you read it correctly. The producers are seriously asking for ninety-five pounds for a ticket. And yes, the rich and people on expense accounts will undoubtedly pay it, but that doesn’t mean the average theatre-goer will. And with the credit crunch persisting, the £65 top is increasingly unappealing, especially when there’s top notch touring a short train ride away in Wimbledon, Croyden, and Milton Keynes for half as much.