Swish, oh so swish, and absolutely delish! Outrageous doesn’t begin to describe the road trip of three Australian “ladies” who drive a hard-used bus into Australia’s Outback town of Alice Springs. “Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” the musical, is glitter and glitz wrapped around a sweet story. Based on Stephan Elliott’s highly successful 1994 film, this musical version by Elliott and Allan Scott and directed by Simon Philips has won awards in Australia, London and New York. Seattle is its final stop on the American tour.
The trip begins when Tick (aka drag queen Mitzi) gets a phone call from the wife he had in a former life. There’s a son he’s never seen, and the boy wants to meet his father. Tick is nervous about making the trek, so convinces another drag queen, Adam (Felicia), and the transsexual Bernadette to join him. Reluctantly they agree, unsure of what they will encounter, each hoping that love will find them by the end of the journey.
It’s the campiest journey you’ll ever go on. Divas descend from the heavens; the stage vibrates with sparkle and color; song and dance routines are over-the-top; streamers and confetti shower the audience. Of course there’s lip-syncing. And the costumes — more than 500 costumes, 60 wigs, 150 pairs of shoes, more than 200 hats and headdresses — will delight and amaze you. The costumes alone were honored with a Tony in New York and an Olivier in London.
There are a few women in the cast, but, not surprisingly, most of the “ladies” just aren’t. Wade McCollum makes Tick/Mitzi an amazingly talented female performer, and then, when he’s out of costume, he’s a nervous father wondering whether his son will accept him. Scott Willis’ Bernadette is Bette Davis with heart, and Bryan West as Adam/Felicia proves that bravado is often just a cover for neediness.
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The musical numbers, and this is a show that’s mostly musical numbers, are songs you’ve heard before, sung by Tina Turner, Elvis Presley, Dionne Warwick, Ella Fitzgerald and other favorites. It’s familiar music, music that brings memories, but you’ve never seen it performed like this.
Effervescent though this is, it’s an extravaganza with a subtly expressed message: There can be glory in meeting the unknown. Doing so might add some sparkle to your own life.
Nancy Worssam: firstname.lastname@example.org