Who: Richard Watkins
Where: The Bally at Gluttony – Rymill Park
When: Until 1 March
Tickets: $25-$28, here
Can queer people find their ‘happily ever after’ in a prejudiced world? In Happily Ever Poofter, Richard Watkins rewrites the traditional fairytale into the raucous, racy tale of a gay prince trying to find his one true love. Combining Disney parodies with a hilarious and honest examination of gay life, this show is an essential exploration of the lives of those who don’t fit into the fairytale mold.
The protagonist of this fairytale is Prince Henry, the ‘only gay in the kingdom’ who longs for the love and acceptance enjoyed by his heterosexual counterparts. Fortunately, his ‘fairy godfather’ sends him to the real world to explore his sexuality and find love in London’s riotous gay scene. What follows is a satire of modern gay male culture that is at turns side-splittingly funny, outrageously vulgar, and genuinely emotional. Both the beautiful and ugly parts of gay life are on display: the joy of finding a place of acceptance among your own kind, the hardship of navigating a world fraught with drug use and risky promiscuity.
Watkins is an outstanding performer oozing with captivating physicality. The intimate space of the Bally is a perfect setting that allows us to get up close and personal with every suggestive wink, wiggle, and flourish. Watkins’ stage presence is gigantic enough to electrify the entire room with energy as he prances and twirls across the stage in thigh-high black boots, at once caricaturing the physicality of traditional Disney femininity and stereotypes of campy queerness. Watkins had the audience eating out of his hands as he evoked laughter, chants, boos and sighs at each emotional turn of the story. It’s not easy for a single performer to carry a one-man-show with such captivating energy. At first I was concerned that we may tire of an hour of Prince Henry, but Watkins slips in and out of a variety of characters with ease, each transformation earning peals of delighted laughter. Costume changes, audience participation, and even some puppetry keep the audience guessing and prevent the show from feeling stale at any point.
As a musical parody, Happily Ever Poofter reworks tunes from classics like The Little Mermaid and The Lion King into sexual jokes and LGBTQA anthems. Expect to hear relatable songs such as “Part Of That Scene” and “I’m Coming Out To The King” alongside crude ditties “High Hoe” and “Someday My Prince Will Come” (use your imagination on that last double entendre). Watkins has a strong voice that only occasionally struggles to nail the big Broadway notes (not that anyone noticed through their nonstop laughter).
If you enjoy Disney, are LGBTQA, or have loved ones who fall into either category, this show is a must-see. Even as a reviewer who is not personally part of the LGBTQA community, I found a great deal to admire, appreciate, and connect with in this show, and I can imagine it would be even more meaningful to someone who had personally experienced the highs and lows of Prince Henry’s journey. The quest for love and self-acceptance may be a ‘tale as old as time’, but Happily Ever Poofter is an original, outrageously funny, and heartfelt show.