Priscilla and Sheldon deserve place in history books

Tony Sheldon as Bernadette, centre (with Will Swenson and Nick Adams) in Priscilla on Broadway 2011 Photo: Joan Marcus
Tony Sheldon (with Will Swenson and Nick Adams) in Priscilla on Broadway Photo: Joan Marcus

Tony Sheldon’s journey to the Tony Awards has been remarkable.

Incredibly, Tony Sheldon almost turned down the role of Bernadette in Priscilla.

He explained to Alan Jones on 2GB last week that he didn’t want to “frock up” every night, but eventually warmed to the role when he really delved into what the character was all about.

Sheldon capped off a remarkable journey with the Aussie musical when he sat amongst theatre’s biggest names at the Tony Awards earlier today.

He may not have won, but it matters little.

For Sheldon to be nominated was achievement enough. It was an incredible effort, and a very special story that all of Australia should have taken notice of.

Tony Sheldon
Tony Sheldon as Bernadette in Australia

To its credit, the Australian media did cover the Tony Awards more than usual, particularly given Priscilla picked up a costume award, but it’s a shame the groundswell of support for Sheldon mainly came from inside the industry.

I went away for the weekend but I admit I got excited when I was sitting in the passenger seat travelling down the F3, watching the posts from my Facebook friends about supporting Sheldon.

Had the whole country gotten behind him, it would have been even more exciting.

But we shouldn’t compare the lack of attention to support a sportsperson in an international competition may get. Reality is that Sheldon couldn’t control the result and the work had been done. Sport is a totally different ball game, so to speak.

I do think though that if more and more Australian talent starts to be recognised at the Tony Awards, we’ll see even more support. The fact that the Tonys are usually always held when it is a public holiday here in Australia also helps, and perhaps one day free-to-air television will pick up the broadcast.

Had Sheldon won today, and had events regarding a major aftershock in New Zealand and the extensive plane delays impacting Australia not had happened, the Tonys could have well led the 6pm news bulletins.

It was that close.

Tony Sheldon should be congratulated for his amazing contribution to Australian theatre.

I never could have imagined such success would occur when sitting in the audience at the Sydney opening night a few years ago. I now feel very privileged to have been there that night.

Priscilla is one for the history books.

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