When Tony Sheldon slips into heels, frock and wig to play Bernadette in the 10th anniversary production of the musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, which begins a national tour in Melbourne this month, it will be but the latest stop on a journey that began well over a decade ago.

When director Simon Phillips oversaw the very first workshop to adapt Stephan Elliott’s 1994 award-winning Australian film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desertinto a stage musical, Sheldon played Bernadette, the fabulous, tough-yet-tender transsexual woman played on screen by Terence Stamp. Sheldon subsequently starred in the show’s Australian premiere in Sydney in 2006. When it returned two years later having truly found its heart and really shaking its groove thing after significant revisions while touring, his Bernadette was an even more divine creation.

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Tony Sheldon Tony Sheldon as Bernadette. Photograph courtesy of Michael Cassel Group

Over the years, Sheldon has frocked up for the role more than 1750 times, performing in the West End production and on Broadway where he received a Tony Award nomination and the Theatre World Award for Outstanding Broadway Debut. Now based...