With all the glitz and glamour you’d expect out of a Tony Award-winning musical, Priscilla: Queen of the Desert rolls into DPAC this week to wow you with its classic pop songs and fantastically flamboyant costumes. It’s bold, brash, and beautiful, and it’ll tug your heartstrings as much as it’ll make you stand up and sing along at the end.
The story begins with Tick (Wade McCollum), a drag queen and performer in Sydney, Australia, as he receives a phone call from his wife Marion, with whom he is amicably separated due to his homosexuality. In desperate need of an act to perform at her casino in Alice Springs — the dead center of the Australian Outback — she convinces Tick to get his group back together by informing him that his young son wants to finally meet him after 8 long years. Tick assembles an act with his transsexual friend Bernadette (Scott Willis) and his utter show-off of a pal Felicia (Bryan West), and the three decide to drive a beat-up old bus, Priscilla, through the desert. What follows is a fabulous tale of friendship and family as the trio travels and traipses through the empty roads to discover intolerance, acceptance, and, ultimately, Alice Springs.
The actors certainly shine in their respective roles, each delivering zippy and hilarious one-liners with ease. McCollum deftly plays Tick with equal parts extravagance and compunction. He will joyously overwhelm you — as will the dancing cupcakes — in his rendition of “Macarthur Park” and he will bring you to quiet tears in “Always On My Mind.” West, however, steals every scene he’s in. His relentless energy and incessant cheeriness will keep your sides in stitches. His battles of wit with Bernadette supply most of the show’s humor, and his unending stream of dirty, snide jokes inevitably create a purer, deeper friendship between the trio.
In terms of the show’s strong suits, the costumes and sets deserve a major mention as well. During the show, you’ll see a bizarre mix of dancing funeral dresses (complete with crosses for hats), giant pink paint brushes, big green cupcakes, and an assortment of flowers, insects, and ostriches. The eponymous bus, Priscilla, is built with little lights inside its hull, showering the stage in color and patterns after an uplifting version of “Colour My World.” It’s quite the spectacle for such a simple piece of set decoration and truly contributes to the show’s greater sense of heartfelt gaudiness.
While I certainly loved seeing Priscilla, and while I think its message of tolerance and acceptance needs to be heard by all, I am obligated to say that the show is probably not recommended for all audiences. DPAC provides a content advisory for “explicit language, sexual innuendo and an attempted hate crime,” which I endorse as well. I found the scandalous scenarios involving skimpy frocks and ping-pong balls to be both funny and entertaining, but some parents may find the same material unsuitable for children. Please use your discretion.
Be sure to catch Priscilla: Queen of the Desert and the songs “I Will Survive” and “It’s Raining Men” at DPAC this week. The show runs here until May 5th. Visit the DPAC website here for tickets and information.