“Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical”: Queen of glitter

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Filled with humor, friendship, glitter and the songs of your youth, Priscilla Queen of the Desert is now showing at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis. Drag queen Tick sets off on a journey from Sydney through the desert to the city of Alice to meet his son who he has never met. To accompany him on this trip are the ever-bickering Bernadette and Adam, aka Felicia. Hop on the bus across the desert to join in on the exciting, if not slightly bewildering, voyage.

The moment the curtain rose, I took a deep breath, because I saw the tidal wave of glitter about to smother me. To my wonderment, the sparkly stuff was splashed across every surface of the stage, and this was only the beginning. The show included a variety of settings, all well done, but the centerpiece of the journey was the LED covered Queen of the Desert: Priscilla. Its interior and exterior provided the perfect setting for the events of the story: from the high of romance, to the low of hate. To my disappointment though, there was little other than kangaroo- and koala-crossing signs to show that they were in the desert.

The music was a spectacular collection that was quite obviously, to the audience, the major attraction of the play. The repertoire included such songs as “I Will Survive” and “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, which the audience lapped up. There were even rumors circulating of dancing among the audience.

The costumes, whoa. The costumes deserve a doctoral dissertation of their own. There is no way to really explain them fully, so I will start with the statistics: the total number of costumes, in the hundreds; the average height of a fully dressed drag queen, 7’0”; the widest dress, 20 feet; color scheme, everything; quickest costume change, near instantaneous; and pounds of glitter used, 40. The costumes must have come from the wildest dreams of Dr. Seuss himself. Kudos to the costume designer and to the stage manager for somehow organizing all of them. 

The story alternated between huge, colorful, drag-filled numbers and the obstacles that the three drag queens face in Outback Australia. The contrast between the upbeat, extravagant songs and the hate that the “country boys” direct at them shows the tumultuous life the trio lead. Tick (Wade McCollum), with an endearing lisp, captivates the audience with his singing and emotion as he hesitantly sets out to meet his son. Bernadette (Scott Willis) and Adam (Bryan West) have a strong showing, especially with their razor-sharp, rapid-fire humor. In the end? Let’s just say that the moral of the story that every family is a good one.

Bernadette, Adam, and Tick take you on a journey like no other. Looking past the surreal costumes and glitter-doused set, we see the “True Colors” of three close friends who stride ever onward, stamping out hate under their five inch heels.