Through March 3rd the First National Tour of Priscilla Queen of the Desert – The Musical is bedecking The Academy of Music with sequins, rhinestones and 295 ostrich plums. Adapted from the 1994 Australian cult film “The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert”, the book is by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott. Stephan Elliott wrote and directed the original film. The music, which spans popular hits from the sixties, seventies and eighties may have you dancing in the aisles.
Tick/Mitzi, a Sydney drag queen, promises his “ex-wife” to meet his son for the very first time and perform a show at her Casino in Alice Springs. This involves a continental trip across Australia. Tick enlists the help of Bernadette (a transsexual woman) and a young drag queen, Adam/Felecia to put together a show. They procure a bus, name it Priscilla, and head out to the middle of the Australian Outback searching for love and friendship. What they find is touching and life affirming. [Many people may remember a 1995 American film with a similar theme (though different story) starring Patrick Swayze , “To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Neumar”.]
First of all, the script is hilarious and completely scatalogical. But drag queens have been known to use obscene retorts of one up’smanship to put their opponents in their place. So it is not for the faint of heart, nor for women who find men dressing up like women and then acting like men objectionable. Once you get over that – you may be okay -- unless buff male strippers bother you. Because at every available occassion, someone is ripping someone’s clothes off. Talk about pandering to the “base”. You also cannot view the world of the drag queen as “realistic”. The worlds they want to create are anything but. And so the costume designs by the Academy Award and Tony Award winning team of Tim Chappell and Lizzie Gardiner are so fantasical, so over the top, you can’t even call it camp. You could call it a circus of colorful cartoon art, a kaleidoscopic acid trip, a parade of silliness – one costume more bizarro than the next. And we are introduced to over 500 costumes and 65 wig changes during the course of the evening. So, if you like extravaganza – you will get an eyeful.
You will also see almost non-stop dancing. Talk about sweating to the oldies! The energetic choreography by Ross Coleman has everybody bumping and grinding and strutting their male stuff. But for my money, the best performance is by Scott Willis as Bernadette, a member of the “old school” of drag queens, Bernadette actually tries to act like a lady. Well, that is except for her language! And Mr. Willis captures Bernadette’s insecurities as a transsexual and an aging woman with a great deal of sensitivity and feeling. Also duly noted are the fabulous voices of the Divas: Emily Afton, Bre Jackson and Brit West who are suspended in the air most of the time like visiting angels. They provide the powerhouse vocals that keep this entertainment pumping.
For tickets call 215-893-1999 or go online at www.kimmelcenter.org/broadway.
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