“Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical”: A review

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An instant crowd favorite, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert was presented at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis January 8-13. This musical, based off of the movie Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, has the audience cheering from the minute the curtain rises and three Divas descend from the ceiling singing “It’s Raining Men”.  Written by Stephan Elliott, the same man who wrote and directed the movie, this musical lacked a good story but made up for it with entertainment and fun.

The show follows two drag queens, Mitzi/Tick (played by Wade McCollum) and Felicia/Adam (played by Bryan West), and a transsexual named Bernadette (played by Scott Willis) as they travel from Sydney, Australia to a casino in the middle of the desert in their RV named: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The music in the show is all songs that have once been popular, mostly in the 70’s and 80’s but with a few standards thrown in the mix. “Material Girl” (1984), “Like a Virgin” (1984), “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” (1979), “Boogie Wonderland” (1979), “Always on My Mind” (1972), and “A Fine Romance” (1936) are all songs featured in Priscilla. Along with the men travelling in Priscilla are the chorus of characters they run into; including rednecks (featuring Shirley played hysterically by Babs Rubenstein), farmers, miners, more drag queens (including the Tina Turner-esque Miss Understanding played by Nik Alexzander), and an incredibly in-shape group of chorus boys. Never again in one sitting will you see so many 6-packs.

Outstanding elements of Priscilla include McCollum’s performance of Tick. Not only does he play a believable woman, but also a believable new father. Notable performances of his include “MacArthur Park” which he performs in lime green pajamas, and “Always on My Mind” which he performs with his 6 year old son whom he is meeting for the first time. Another element is West’s performance of Felicia. Although his voice is not quite up to par, he is by far the best dancer, has the most believable Australian accent, and has the best stage presence. He is introduced through the performance of “Material Girl” which includes suggestive dance moves and men with nicer legs than most women. The featured roles of “mullet” Shirley and the Divas (played by Emily Afton, Bre Jackson, and Brit West) are also memorable performances. Above all the rest of the effective aspects of Priscilla are the costumes designed by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner. There are over 500 costume pieces in the show including costumes such as cupcakes, paintbrushes, flamingos, kangaroos, fruit, a dress made out of flip plops, a dress that’s skirt turns into puppets, and Marie Antoinette-like dresses that’s skirts turn into the outline of the famous Sydney Opera House.

Although the story is left behind as you are taken away on a pink bus through the desert, the fun nostalgic songs, the awe-inspiring costumes, and the comedy will leave you entertained. You may not discover something new about yourself and the world, which great musicals provide; but you will have a fun night at the theater, which good musicals provide.