Lack of indigenous actors to play Jimmy in Priscilla Musical - Producer

By Taroi Black

An Australian soap star has questioned the decision from the producers of the musical, Priscilla Queen of the Desert to cut the aboriginal characters from the show.

Known for his role as 'Alf' in Home and Away, Australian actor Ray Meagher shares his experience being in New Zealand to star in the musical Priscilla.

“It's just a fantastic event, I wouldn't have come out from across the ditch to do it having done it for nearly a year unless I really loved it.”

Despite his enthusiasm for the show, he's saddened that the aboriginal character who appeared in the 1994 film has been cut from the show.

"When you go out there to those places on a bus, it's unusual not to run into a few aboriginals so to have one representing that lot because people want to represent their country why not a better reality of it."

"Some would say, what are you doing sticking an aboriginal in there, and others would say, wasn't it great that you truly reflected what that part of the world has and the people from that part of the world."

The media were given a preview before the opening night at Auckland Civic Theatre.

Aboriginal actor the late Alan Dargin who died in 2008 played Jimmy in the film. But the producers decided to cut him out of the musical.

Producer Garry McMuinn says, “When we started this and frankly we cut it because somewhat we were embarrassed. We had Jimmy who was played by an aboriginal performer and we've generally to the extent, thought it was possible, that we persisted in that Jimmy role and you know brutally honestly, when we can't find an aboriginal to play that role which happens throughout the world like playing in Spain, that's a challenge okay, we don't have it.”

Earlier productions of this show include a chorus line of aboriginal characters but producers say they also decided to cut them out. 

"We were looking at it and thought, seriously we're doing a show and we got white performers upstage behind our beautiful drag queens pretending to be an aboriginal community", you can't do that,” says McQuinn.

McQuinn says Jimmy the sole aboriginal character in the show, was eventually dropped because he slowed the story down and there was also a lack of indigenous actors to play him.

“The drama in that is actually part of the story arch, it is part of the theatrical story you’re telling. Moving into the aboriginal community that was sweetness and light - Jimmy is a lovely character you know it's a terrific character.”

Despite the exclusion of aboriginal characters in their shows, McQuinn says aboriginal stories are still important.