Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical is a 2 1/2 hour romp of
amazing costumes, energetic performances and a big old bus on stage.
It’s a stubby version of the one in the film, as the stage requires.
The side opens up and luckily it’s not the star of the show.

After a short overture, the curtain goes up to reveal a light-bulb
version of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. In a moment of hometown pride,
the audience applauded. From above flies in three what appear to be
drag queens (but probably weren’t) who act as Greek Chorus for the
entire musical. When the stars are supposed to be lip-syncing the
three sing.

The musical maintains all the major plot points from the movie, but
shortens and condenses a few things. All the songs from the movie
seem to have made it into the production too. Consequently, it’s a
cavalcade of pop songs. There are some new numbers written for the
show and it’s here the production falls a little flat. They’re over
quickly and we’re back to Abba, Gloria Gaynor, Pet Shop Boys, Donna
Summer, John Denver and many others.

The singing and dancing throughout are universally good. The cast
does a fine job. The three leads are strong performers at times
channelling the original stars of the movie. I’d mention their names,
but no Playbill is handed out and the program was $20. The strongest
of the three was the guy playing Felicia. He definitely saw Guy Piece
in the movie and modeled his performance on Guy’s. Normally, I would
find fault with that, but most everyone who sees this musical will
have seen the movie and are familiar with the characters. The guy
playing Bernadette didn’t have the best voice, but sang with that old
drag queen gravely sound that was appropriate. The one playing Mitzy
did a good job, but missed some the emotional depth that was reached
in the film.

The costumes were done by the same person who did them for the movie
and were incredible. They caused major laughter throughout the show.
The final number parades out all the costumes from the montage at the
end of the movie. The three leads obviously can’t change into each
one, so surrogates come out in each. It worked quite nicely.

There are a lot of Australian references that American audiences
wouldn’t quite get, so if this is to travel to Broadway the
production will need some tweaking. Some gentle editing of the script
and you might get a hit. It won’t be another Mama Mia runaway hit,
but it could have a respectable run on Broadway.

The whole evening was quite enjoyable. It was light rousing fun,
especially if you didn’t think about it too much and just gave into
it all. The bar even got into the spirit of things serving drinks in
battery operated flashing colored martini glasses. I had to have one.
The t-shirts and souvenirs were a big disappointment. Almost all of
them were pink. The “A Cock on a Rock in a Frock” shirt was a navy
tank top (they call them singlets here). I wish it had been available
as a t-shirt. I’ll just have to live with my memory