The “Priscilla”

New York Times
Asked and Answered | Manolo Blahnik
Feb 26,2011

Tonight is the first performance of the new Broadway musicalPriscilla Queen of the Desert.” Just like the film that inspired it, the show is a whirlwind of over-the-top costumes, industrial-strength makeup and riotous musical numbers as Priscilla and the “girls” travel across Australia on a tour bus with a towering heel topper. But just in case you thought it couldn’t get any more fabulous than the movie, Manolo Blahnik has designed a custom pair of stilettos for the show.

The Priscilla, a patent leather Mary Jane high heel embellished with a Swarovski crystal button, will also be available for purchase from March 21 at the Manolo Blahnik flagship on 54th Street. (It’s $745, with a portion of the proceeds going to the New York Restoration Project, the pet charity of the show’s producer, Bette Midler.) The Moment kicks off its heels to talk show tunes with Blahnik.

When did you first watch “Priscilla Queen of the Desert”?

I’m a big fan of Terence Stamp, so when the movie came out – I think it was around 1994 or 1995, I was very anxious to see it and I loved it. Way beyond the big lavender bus and the outrageous costumes, music and campiness, in the end it’s a tender story about love and friendship.

Have you always considered yourself a fan of musicals? What are some of your favorites?

I’ve always adored films since I was young. In fact I write a column for Harper’s Bazaar in England where I critique movies almost every month. I’m a big fan of the musicals of MGM, in particular anything with Cyd Charisse. (Except for “Brigadoon.” It bores me to tears.) I loved “Gigi” with Leslie Caron, and I loved “My Fair Lady” with Audrey Hepburn with costumes by Cecil Beaton. I loved the direction of Mr. George Cukor in “My Fair Lady.” My favorite music as of late came from “Dreamgirls” and that wonderful huge number, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.”

In the musical there is a scene with a shoe atop a tour bus. Did the original shoe inspire your design of the Priscilla at all?

With this project, my biggest inspiration came with knowing of Ms. Midler’s fascination with it. I’ve always been a big fan of hers, and I applaud what she’s been doing over the years with the New York Restoration Project. She makes New York a lot more beautiful.

A lot of designers often find themselves collaborating with Broadway shows, the opera and other arts projects. Have ­you done any other design collaborations in the past?

I’ve always been fascinated with anything that touches on the theatrical. I did shoes for “The Hunger” with Catherine Deneuve and “Marie Antoinette” with Kirsten Dunst; both had costumes by Milena Canonero. I also did “Applause” on Broadway, the one with Raquel Welch, and “The Sisters Rosenswieg” by Wendy Wasserstein.

Will you be attending the premiere of “Priscilla”?

I certainly hope so. I can’t wait to see Ms. Midler.

Have you ever dressed in drag?

That’s something private, but I’ve been told I did a mean Sophia Loren in London at a ball in the 1970s.

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