Three budding boy actors play Benji

Artscape foyer was a little bit crazy on Friday March 10 as three young actors met for the first time. Not phased by the media limelight, Jack Fokkens of Plumstead sang I Will Survive, Alexander Wallace of Newlands showed off a ballet move as Jagger Vosloo gave tips on talking Aussie. Originally from Noordhoek, Jagger recently landed after flying for 24 hours from Australia, where he now lives.

Their impressive talents are what won them the part of Benji in the award-winning stage adaptation of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, on at Artscape from Sunday March 26 to Sunday April 23.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert is a 1994 Australian comedy-drama set in the remote Australian desert. The plot follows Tick and Adam, two drag queens who go by the names Mitzi and Felicia, respectively, and Bernadette, a transgender woman, who head west from Sydney to Alice Springs aboard a pink tour bus named Priscilla for a four-week gig at a Hotel Casino Resort in Alice Springs, which happens to be managed by Tick’s estranged wife, Marion.

Along the way they encounter various groups and individuals and when they arrive, they find more than just a cabaret job lying in wait.

Anton Luitingh, resident director on Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and his partner and choreographer Duane Alexander run the Musical Theatre Workshop (MTW). Jagger and Alexander have both attended classes at MWT.

Run during the school holidays, the workshop provides scholars, students and emerging professionals access to practical training in musical theatre, including vocal training, repertoire, dance classes, acting, audition prep and improvisation.

Anton says in playing the part of Benji, the boys’ job is to forge a relationship with Tick, played by Daniel Buys.

Benji is the real reason Tick convinces his friends Bernadette and Felicia to head off into the desert in a bus.

Tick hasn’t seen his son Benji for years and is nervous about exposing him to his colourful lifestyle, only to be surprised that Marion (Taryn-Lee Buys) has raised him to be sweet and open-minded so he’s fully supportive of his father’s sexuality and career.

“The show is about a family. Interestingly, the roles of the estranged couple are played by real life husband and wife,” says Anton.

“There’s a lot of heart in the show and the boys’ bring out the sentiment, but also need a good singing voice.” .

When the boys auditioned for the part of Benji, Anton says, they had to dig deep. They have no problems finding girls for parts but there is often a shortage of boys.

Jack, who points out that his friend Oliver Mea, didn’t tease him about doing ballet, Jack has just finished performing in Peter Pan. Holding his heel, his leg in the air, balancing, he says he’s the only boy in his ballet class who can do this.

On Saturday he was in class at the Waterfront Theatre School from 9am to 3pm.

Discussing the plot, Jagger says he won’t have to learn to speak Aussie and gives a quick lesson.

“A popular saying is g’day mate,” he says. Jagger is taking seven weeks off school to perform in the show.

Alexander says his mum, Louise, has invited them to have a sleepover so they can practise together.

The film of the same name was screened in the Un Certain Regard section of the 1994 Cannes Film Festival and became a cult classic in Australia and abroad.

Priscilla subsequently provided the basis for a musical, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, which opened in 2006 in Sydney before travelling to New Zealand, Great Britain, Canada, and New York City’s Broadway.

The show’s title is a pun on the fact that in English speaking cultures, “queen” is a slang term for a drag queen or female impersonator.

The musical has an age restriction of 12 because it contains strong language and adult themes. Book through Computicket or call Artscape Dial-A-Seat 021 421 7695.

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