Jacki climbs aboard Priscilla
The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert: the Musical, Lyric Theatre, Star City to September 2; then Regent Theatre, Melbourne from October.
The casting extravaganza which is Priscilla Queen of the Desert - the musical continues with yet another star recruit to her crew. On Tuesday night (July 31) Jacki Weaver straps on her prosthetic boobs and takes over from Genevieve Lemon as the outback pub owner with the mostest.
"They're bloody heavy cos they're filled with sand," says Weaver of the pendulous danglers. "It has to be sand, apparently, or they won't swing - in that really subtle sight gag - and I can tell you it takes a lot of muscle control." (She is pictured here with Tony Sheldon, Jeremy Stanford and Daniel Scott.)
Jacki Weaver - the pocket rocket star of stage, screen and television - is no stranger to big breasts. "I had a breast reduction about 20 years ago. I was 10E and it was terrible, then I was 10C and it was very liberating. The first time I'd been a C cup since I was 15. They grew back eventually but at least they were sort of melon shaped rather than a couple of footballs. I don't talk about it much because people think you're boasting, but unless you've got really big boobs you have no idea what a burden they are."
Literally. And now she's got another set - sand-filled and down to her waist.
"They've had three goes at making them to get the droop right," says Weaver. "I don't know what sort of sand is in them, I hope it's Bondi sand. I mean the show is such a Sydney show, it would have to be Bondi!"
As one of the new recruits to the musical about three guys and a bus and their adventures on the way from Sydney to Alice Springs and their various life redemptions, Weaver has been surprised and even a bit awed at its complexity.
"I've been following Gen around backstage and there's heaps more to do than I realised," Weaver says. "She works so hard. I've learned 13 songs and seven production numbers and I've got five quick changes. It's like a military tattoo back there."
As well as the outback scrubber, one of Weaver's major cameos is as a Koala. It follows on other non-human roles in her career including an asparagus stalk (in a TV commercial) which was one of her rare failures. (The director said Jacki Weaver was one of the worst asparagus stalks he'd ever worked with). She had more success playing a sultana in a cereal commercial and reminds me that this Koala is her second go at the species.
"My first go as a koala was in one of the Wharf Revues," she says. "I don't think I've ever had such acclaim for doing so little. I was supposed to be high on eucalyptus leaves. I'm a really good example of the pathetic fallacy, I think."
(That's the idea John Ruskin had in 1856 - according to the encyclopaedia - to describe how inanimate or non-human objects are endowed with human characteristics, also known as anthropomorphism.)
"Yup, that's the one," says Weaver. "My son Dylan's dad used to say 'you insolent fridge' - that's the same thing."
Jacki Weaver is never anything less than surprising and her dive - head first - into Australia's most successful home-grown musical is typical of her daring and constant quest for interesting things to do with her talent.
"It's such a lovely show," she says of Priscilla, "and now I've seen it eight times already I'm beginning to realise how much more there is to it as well as being funny and spectacular. And it's a great company. I think the way Sheldon (Tony - Bernadette) plays that role is really very moving. He's so elegant and beautiful - reminds me of Celeste Holm."
Weaver herself has only recently completed another tour of her hugely successful one-woman, seven characters play by Robert Hewett, The Blonde, The Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead. Meanwhile, however, the call of Priscilla is irresistible. In 2008, however, she's likely to be on the road again with the hugely successful solo play.
"So far I've done 263 performances in 58 venues," says Weaver. "And there's still life in the old girl yet. I'd like to get to 80 - theatres that is."