Adapted from the 1994 Australian movie about three road-tripping drag queens as they glide across the Outback in their pink tour bus, the musical “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” boasts a score of classic disco beats and some seriously eye-popping costumes.
Sadly, there is very little original about “Priscilla” (save one big item) with its arsenal of recycled songs and story. Clogged with cheap sentiment, and most of us detest cheap sentiment, the script is full of movie and social clichés and very little honest heart.
The show’s book, credited to Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott is often an intrusion of the creative spirit that is being displayed and celebrated. No matter how many snappy one-liners you cram into 21⁄2 hours, the moments that don’t applaud the allure of platform shoes and glitter feel familiar and forced.
‘Priscilla, Queen of The Desert’
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: Through Sunday
HOW MUCH: $70–$20
MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.proctors.org
But let’s be honest. Did we really expect something as moving or as deep as “Man of LaMancha?” This is a show that revels in camp and fun and it succeeds gloriously on both fronts.
So much fun that at times the show feels like a massive karaoke party that has blasted through the last bottle of tequila. No one is a slurry, sloppy mess, but all are infected with an expressive and creative joie de vive. Driven by the thump of the disco beat and a parade of rainbow wigs, the show celebrates as it entertains.
Take for instance the massively ridiculous and priceless riff on “MacArthur Park”, featuring an absolutely flawless Wade McCollum dancing with cupcakes — life size ones. Or the “Floor Show” sequence that spins up some “Supreme” memories with frenzied flash. Or Bryan West’s marvelous Madonna send-up of “Material Girl,” complete with adoring scantily clad male admirers.
The performers are all fabulous. McCollum, as drag dad Tick, wonderfully balances the poignant moments that combine a tear of sad, with the happiness and freedom he feels in a rainbow wig and heels. The aforementioned West defines perk and pump as Felicia and offers up a delightful and devilish “Like a Prayer” festooned in feathers. Scott Willis’ middle-aged transsexual Bernadette is the most well-textured role in the show and he handles it beautifully, finding nuance and emotion even when just mouthing the words. It’s a rich and rewarding performance, firmly centering the show.
Also creating some memorable moments are Nik Alexzander’s sassy Miz Understanding, who opens the show; Babs Rubenstein’s Reubenesque randy redneck Shirley; and Emily Afton, Bre Jackson and Brit West as a trio of angel- or birdlike disco divas dropping down from the heavens to belt out the tunes.
But as good as the performers are, it’s the costumes you will most remember. Designed by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner — the woman who memorably designed and wore the AMEX gold card mini dress to the Oscars a few years back — they simply amaze with their colorful and eye-popping whimsy. Creating some seriously messed-up delights that evoke the art of Leigh Bowery with the day-glo and rainbow of the 1970s. These clothes are high couture for the camp and clever.
If there ever was an event to see just for the clothes, Priscilla is it. The costumes are truly outstanding. And do not, I repeat, do not leave the show before the end of the first curtain call or you will miss a clever bit of fashion fancy that celebrates an Australia landmark in a most ingenious way.
With lots of fun and full of musical ridiculousness, “Priscilla” is a perfect treat for a cold winter’s night.