Transgender actor Vonni lands ‘role of a lifetime’ in Gold Coast Priscilla production

When The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert hit movie screens in 1994, the lead role of transgender character Bernadette Bassenger was played by male English actor Terrence Stamp.

In 2006 the musical theater version was first performed in Sydney and traveled around the world, including Broadway in the United States, and male actors were almost always cast in the role of Bernadette.

But now transgender performer Yvonne Britain, whose stage name is Vonni, has been cast in the lead role of the Gold Coast production, in what is believed to be an Australian-first.

The Adelaide performer said it was the role of a lifetime.

“Absolutely beside myself to say that I will be playing Bernadette.”

A transgender woman with blonde hair sitting on the lap of another transgender woman with blonde hair.
Vonni (right) worked with fellow cabaret performer Carlotta (left) at Les Girls in Sydney in the 1980s.(Supplied: Vonni)

Vonni auditioned for the role and has been cast alongside pop artist, Paulini, and transgender cabaret performer Carlotta, who was an original member of the long-running Sydney-based male revue, Les Girls.

Transgender woman with blonde hair, a tiara and stage makeup.
Vonni says playing Bernadette in Priscilla is the “role of a lifetime”.(Supplied: Vonni)

“I was part of Les Girls and Bernadette’s character is a retired Les Girls performer,” Vonni said.

“I’ve toured around Australia, I’ve toured in a bus.

“I’ve lived the life of the person that I’m portraying.”

Producer Matt Ward said the casting of Bernadette’s character was based on talent.

“It’s an honor to share the story of Bernadette and it’s important to our team to make casting choices that elevate the humanity of her story.”

Krissy Johnson, from Australia Transgender Support Association Queensland (ATSAQ), said the casting of Vonni in the role was wonderful news.

“I think a lot of people in the wider community have probably seen the original Priscilla Queen of the Desert, but this will show that we’re not that scary,” she said.

“Bernadette was not that scary.”

Man wearing blonde wig and makeup.
Male English actor Terence Stamp played the transgender role of Bernadette Bassanger in the 1994 movie.(Supplied)

‘Give trans people a chance’

Vonni said more producers of theater and film needed to give transgender people an opportunity to play transgender roles.

“We’re out there, we’re not under a brick,” she said.

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