Priscilla Queen of the Desert at Auditorium Theatre | Theater review
A disco dance-party adaptation of the quirky Australian drag-queen film makes for incoherent fun on tour.
The world of Priscilla Queen of the Desert is a gay fever dream in which men dressed as pink paintbrushes and cakes appear out of thin air to sing drag-queen standards by Madonna, Cyndi Lauper and Donna Summer. A funeral is just a dance party in disguise, and buxom women with huge voices float in the air to provide the lip-synching men below with live music.
Flamboyant, fun and more than a little dumb, this 2006 musical adaptation of the 1994 Australian film offers lots of laughs and familiar tunes while sticking remarkably close to the original story. Following three female impersonators as they bring fabulosity to the outback desert, Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott’s book succeeds by establishing a sense of family among the three queens: clumsy Tick (Wade McCollum), sassy Adam (Bryan West) and brash Bernadette (Scott Willis). The leads have a lot of fun in their campy roles, but how could they not in Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner’s deliciously over-the-top, Tony-winning costumes? The acting roles aren’t particularly demanding, yet the trio builds a strong rapport on Priscilla, their bright-pink bus.
Most of the songs are pop numbers pulled from the movie (sadly, ABBA is absent thanks to Mamma Mia!) and translated into a steady stream of gaudy production numbers. Though it won’t be considered musical-theater royalty anytime soon, Priscilla is thoroughly entertaining fluff.