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Monday, Jun 18, 2018
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Review: ‘Priscilla’ is a spectacle of fabulousness

Twirling cupcakes, singing angel divas, a neon pink bus and dancing queens. The campy, over-the-top, bedazzled spectacle of fabulousness and feathers that is “Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical” danced into the Straz Center Tuesday. Priscilla is the musical based on the 1994 movie “Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.” The musical follows drag queens – Tick also known as Mitzi played by Wade McCollum and Adam aka Felicia played by the ripped-abed Bryan West – and an aging transvestite, Scott Willis as Bernadette.
When Tick receives a telephone call from his very understanding wife, Marion (Christy Faber), to perform in her Alice Springs casino – and finally meet his 6-year-old son, Benji, Tick encourages his two friends to accompany him aboard a battered bus they christen Priscilla. The bus, which also is a character in this musical, rotates on stage so the audience can see the action inside one minute and outside of the bus the next. Each performer has their own reason for going on the trip and each one brings a different element of drag to the role. Willis is graceful and elegant as the recently widowed Bernadette, while the young, Madonna-mad West is outrageous and brings great comic timing to the role of Felicia. And McCollum is likeable and sweet and as an insecure drag queen that wants to have a relationship with his son. During their trip, the three friends encounter all sorts of fun and adventure – including homophobic rednecks – with a dialogue that sears with sarcasm and double entendres (beware, this show is not for the kiddies). “Maybe it’s time to take your hormones,” Tick tells Bernadette during one scene. “I just heard a whore moan,” quips Felicia. But really, it’s the costumes and the soundtrack that fuel this rainbow trip. The hits come hard and fast and highlight popular disco tunes of the ‘70s and ‘80s such as “Material Girl” “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” “It’s Raining Men” and “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” The songs aren’t just high-energy numbers that keep you gyrating in your seats, they also add some depth to the story line, such as when vandals spray paint a crude epitaph across the bus and Bernadette responds with an emotional “True Colors,” and when Tick performs Elvis Presley’s “Always on My Mind” during a tender moment between father and son. More than 500 colorful, outlandish get-ups keep you waiting for the next costume change – and some are even used to create an Aussie landmark in an ingenious way –- don’t bat your fake lashes or you’ll miss it. Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner nabbed a well-deserved Tony for their glitzy creations that include jumbo candy-colored cupcakes with massive birthday candle headdresses, pink paint brushes, a flip-flop frock, out-of-this-world head pieces and orange lizards with wings. And frankly, the way these queens strut their stuff wearing sky-high stilettos is enough to give a girl a complex. Some songs are lip-synched in drag-show tradition by the trio. While at other times— their voices harmonize beautifully—they’re equally as strong on their own. While even more songs are belted out by the trio in combination with three angel divas that watch over them – Emily Afton, Bre Jackson and Brit West – who descend from the rafters and perform suspended in mid-air. Very cool. One of the many stand-out moments comes deep in the second act when a cake is left out in the rain, and McCollum performs a rousing and hilarious rendition of “Macarthur Park.” For once, that song finally makes sense! And West’s sassy, blinged-out performance of “Sempre Libre” atop the bus was pure awesomeness. Grab a rainbow wig and get ready to board a pink bus for a bombardment of fun.
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