Priscilla role ensures life’s not a drag...

Richard Grieve as Bernadette, Noel Sullivan as Tick, Graham Weaver as Felicia - Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Richard Grieve as Bernadette, Noel Sullivan as Tick, Graham Weaver as Felicia - Priscilla Queen of the Desert

It’s Raining Men at the Lyceum next week as hit musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert comes to town.

The show based on the Academy Award-winning movie about three drag artists who hop aboard a battered old bus searching for love and friendship originated in Australia. With a dazzling array of outrageous costumes and a hit parade of dance-floor favourites including It’s Raining Men, Say a Little Prayer, Go West, Hot Stuff and Always on My Mind, it enjoyed a three-year run in the West End.

In the touring production Noel Sullivan from Hear’Say plays Tick, the mover and shaker of the trio, opposite Richard Grieve as Bernadette and Graham Weaver as Felicia.

Australian actor Richard Grieve played Tick in the West End but for the UK tour was offered what he sees as the much more demanding role of Bernadette.

The character, played by Terence Stamp in the movie, is a transgender. “For me, it requires a complete physical transformation,” he says. “Bernadette is a woman being a man dressed up as a woman, having undergone a totally brutal operation to become a woman. So I have to be a woman underneath the make-up, wigs, corset, costumes and high heels.”

It requires extra preparation, requiring him to come into the theatre an hour more than the other performers

“It’s hugely demanding physically but it is for everyone in the show - the costume changes alone, given 15 seconds to change from a paintbrush into a cup cake,” says the actor.

“The three principals are on stage for pretty much the entire show and the few moments we are offstage we are in the wings changing very quickly.

“Being in high heels on a raked stage can be gruelling. But it is worth it because the reaction of the audience is heartwarming and gratifying with everyone up on their feet every night,” he continues.

“People expect the show to be all colour and campery but it has much deeper message than that and it’s nice to look down over the front rows and see the faces with their warm smiles and to know you have created an experience like that.”

Grieve, a graduate of Aussie soaps Neighbours and Home and Away, has been in the UK since 2003 mostly working in theatre but is remembered from his stint on Emmerdale as Jonny Foster, the aerobics teacher who was one half of the first civil partnership in a British soap.

“I spent a year and a half on it and fell in love with the Yorkshire countryside - and got used to the weather,” he adds.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert is at the Lyceum Theatre from Tuesday to Saturday.