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Jason Donovan joins the cast of Priscilla Queen of the Desert at The Mayflower
JASON Donovan has just called me for a chat.
If ever there was a reason to travel back in time to talk to my 12-year-old self, this would be it.
I smile to myself as his familiar Australian drawl greets me warmly from his home in West London – and reminisce for a second.
Those were the days when his posters adorned my walls, Too Many Broken Hearts was the only song my sister and I would consider allowing on the tape deck in my poor mum’s car and I genuinely believed he and Kylie would live happily ever after.
I never did manage to get into that rather infamous 1990 concert at The Mayflower when queues snaked all the way down Commercial Road with preteen girls desperate to see their idol.
He doesn’t even remember it, he tells me, so much time in theatres and concert venues and a well publicised drug addiction having happened since.
But, via stops here in The Rocky Horror Show and at a WestQuay book signing, he’s back at the theatre in Priscilla Queen of the Desert, the flamboyant musical version of the ultimate Aussie road trip.
Based on the smash-hit movie, Priscilla is the heart-warming, uplifting adventure of three unlikely friends who hop aboard a battered old bus in search of love and friendship.
The musical originally opened in Australia in 2006, running for two years before transferring to London’s West End, where Jason originated the role of Anthony ‘Tick’ Belrose, aka Mitzi Del Bra, which he now reprises, sharing the two-week Hampshire run with former Hearsay singer Noel Sullivan.
“It’s a story about misfits, it’s a bit crazy, but it’s got a great heart with great songs and great costumes. It’s a story about a gay man and his love for his wife and child,” he tells me.
“Priscilla in town had a real audience, but we didn’t know this tour would be such a success. It’s not your normal audience really. But people are loving it, I think their tastes have changed a lot and they don’t necessarily want the Disney on Ice or Lloyd Webber thing any longer. Not to be negative about them, but this is something different.
Richard Grieve as Bernadette, Jason Donovan as Tick & Graham Weaver as Felicia pic by Paul Colta
Audiences have seen Phantom and Cats, but they haven’t seen this.
“The marriage between me and this show is a good one. It’s a unique show.
It’s Australian, I’m an Australian, it’s a great musical and a great story. They are the reasons why I’m back doing it. It really worked for me, so I would have been crazy to let it go like I have with other shows in the past.
“Plus I like to work – my children are costing me a fortune! That’s the nuts and bolts of it.”
Jason, who turns 45 today, is part way through a rare two week break at home as we speak. It’s mostly been spent enjoying family time with wife Angela and their children Jemma, aged 13, 12- year-old Zach and toddler Molly.
Then it’s back to the Priscilla tour, he sighs.
“I do find the touring really difficult, especially as I have a two-year-old child. The last two weeks I’ve really spent a lot of time with her, so it’s going to be difficult to leave again next week. But, you know, I’m not saving lives. People out in Afghanistan are away from their family for a year and I whinge about two weeks. When I find myself doing that, I say ‘Jason, just shut up’.
“We’ve had a lovely couple of weeks together. When I’ve got time off, I drink red wine and speak a lot of nonsense! I took the kids to see a football match and went to see a show. Ange and I have dinner, I pick the kids up from school and have a life. I have coffee with friends, talk showbiz stories, tell a few lies and embellish how interesting it all is!”
Life has been pretty colourful for the child actor, who began his career at the age of eight.
His long-running stint as Neighbours heart-throb Scott Robinson led to a pop career and a string of hits.
But by the 1990s he had turned his attention to musical theatre, accepting the title role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the London Palladium in 1991. Leads in The Sound of Music and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang followed plus a stint in I’m a Celebrity....
He also took third place in Strictly Come Dancing back in 2011 with his partner Kristina Rihanoff.
But the future is less certain for the star.
“I’m going to be dipping in and out of Priscilla for the next few months, but I don’t have any specific projects lined up, which is slightly concerning. But I’m sure things will come along.
“I’ve got some animation work on a kids TV show but I do a bit of everything, which some people see as a bit of a weird thing, but for me is a necessary part of the multimedia world we live in.
“You need to do things to keep your profile high and you need to keep fit.
“My family and I live well and that costs money. I will keep working and I feel lucky to be doing the job I love.”
- Priscilla Queen of the Desert continues at The Mayflower until June 8.
- Noel Sullivan ends his stint as Tick tonight before Jason reprises the role from Monday to Saturday.
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