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Pittsburgh by Ann Miner


Priscilla Queen of the Desert
National Tour


Wade McCollum, Bryan West and Scott Willis and Company
Priscilla Queen of the Desert is the ultimate drag queen road trip musical. Or maybe the only one. The plot follows the source film, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, closely, and the designers have taken every advantage of providing classic musical additions: production numbers and more (in number and flamboyance) costumes. The film already included a number of pop songs, and more are added to the musical. At times, it's like one big dance party, but there is a genuine heart to the story that prevents the show from being just another jukebox-tune musical.

Tick (Wade McCollum), Bernadette (Scott Willis) and Adam (Bryan West) are traveling across Australia in a bus named Priscilla, headed to Alice Springs, where a job awaits them. Tick is a veteran drag performer and uses the stage name Mitzi, while younger Adam performs as Felicia. Bernadette is a transsexual (born as Ralph), who is a longtime friend of Tick's, but doesn't like Adam much at all. The trip is Tick's idea, and the reasons for it involve details he breaks to the other two along the way: the gig they are heading to was set up by Tick's wife Marion (Christy Faber) and, not only is he married, but he has an eight-year-old son named Benji (Shane Davis). Tick wants to be close to his son, whom he loves very much, but he is afraid of how the boy will take Tick's lifestyle and occupation.

Each of the three travelers has a distinct personality and challenge, and all benefit from the long trip across the country.

More than two dozen songs, like "It's Raining Men," "Material Girl" and "I Love the Nightlife," offer ample opportunities to showcase Russ Coleman's larger than life choreography, recreated for the tour by Joshua Buscher. Most of the songs are sung by the actors, though some are lip-synced, in the styles of characters. When the characters lip-sync, the Divas (Emily Afton, Bre Jackson Brit West) appear, or rather descend from the ceiling, to do the actual singing. The Tony Award winning costumes of Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner are—to use an overused word, but really mean it—amazing, and incredibly elaborate and colorful.

This is the strongest touring cast I've seen in some time. Each actor nails his or her role, and has been perfectly cast. The three leads are able to quickly establish character, and subtly develop those characters through dialogue and singing, all the way through the show. The ensemble also performs very well, and the singing of the Divas is just phenomenal.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert gets a lot of exuberant reactions from the audience for its over the top production numbers and costumes, but the characters and their journey make the show a much richer one.

For more information on the Priscilla Queen of the Desert tour, please visit broadwaytour.net/priscilla-queen-of-the-desert-tour.


Photo: Joan Marcus


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-- Ann Miner



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