Priscilla Queen Of The Desert
Like that out-of-control bus in the movie Speed, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, the stage adaptation of the 1994 cult movie, careened onto Broadway last week – out sassing other sing-along fare like Momma Mia! in a truly over-the-top spectacle that must be seen to be believed. As in the film, the stage version, which originated in Sydney and is still playing in London, follows the epic adventure of three drag queens as they race across the Outback in the titular bus, Priscilla. The ostensible purpose of the trip is for Tick/Mitzi (Will Swenson) to meet his long-lost son living with his mother in the desert outpost of Alice Springs. Tick's wife, a casino operator, arranges for her baby daddy to perform with two other drag queens at her club.
Priscilla's not merely a fish-out-of-water tale of female impersonators taking the macho Outback. There's conflict and competition in the gender-bending group. Bernadette, played by Tony Shleton who originated the role in Australia, is an aging post-op transsexual despairing of ever meeting Mr. Right. Bernadette cat-fights with the young muscle-bound Adam/Felica (Nick Adams), who steals the show with his vicious gay repartee.
The show co-opts a musical sound track from across several decades – ranging from Madonna to Dionne Warwick – encouraging audience members to sing karaoke-style and, yes, even jump on stage with the assembled drag queens. The costumes alone would be enough to write a master's thesis on. With every inch of every outfit bejeweled and bedecked within an inch of its existence, Priscilla's cast hits the high-camp note from the opening scene when three goddesses descend from the stage's ceiling as our disco chorus for the evening's festivities. Though the show flags somewhat toward the end of the second act, audiences will welcome a slowing of the break-neck pace. Priscilla, with all of its gaudy exuberance, is just the electroshock administered straight to the heart that Broadway so badly needed.
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