Theater Review: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The Musical
© The Flash List | Sherri Tilley | May 15, 2013
Dallas Summer Musicals at the Music Hall at Fair Park
Musical with book by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott
Directed by Simon Philips, Choreography by Ross Coleman
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the new musical currently running at Dallas Summer Musicals, is raunchy, irreverent, and rife with sexual innuendo and double entendre … and the delighted opening night audience ATE IT UP.
This comically-touching story of two drag queens and a transsexual who travel together across the Australian outback, begins at Sydney’s Cockatoo Club, a sparkly, tinselly, color-lit, glitter fest where the cross-dressing entertainer Miss Understanding (Nik Alexzander) whips out sexy Tina Turner dance moves while making pointed allusions to the ‘neath-the-skirt ‘thunder down under’.
Backstage on his bejeweled telephone at his fully-bejeweled desk is Tick, who also goes by the stage name Mitzi (played by Wade McCollum, who mesmerized audiences as the Emcee in Dallas Theater Center’s production of Cabaret). Tick has been summoned by his wife Marion (Christy Faber), from whom he has been separated for years, to come and perform at her casino in Alice Springs … and to meet their young son Benji (portrayed alternately by Shane Davis and Will B. Whitesell). Special kudos to McCollum and Faber for their impromptu ad libs during the phone call scene when the Music Hall’s sound system experienced a ‘tick’ of its own and McCollum stated to Faber, “You’re breaking up” to which she wittily responded, “Can you hear me now?” both thereby cracking up the audience.
For the gig, Tick enlists the help of two friends, the flamboyant Adam who is also known as Felicia (Bryan West, joining the Priscilla tour direct from its Broadway run), and the softly-feminine-but-still-ballsy recent widow Bernadette whose birth name is Ralph (Scott Willis, a performer in numerous Broadway and National Touring productions). To make the trek, the trio sets out on a battered old bus affectionately named Priscilla (concept and production design by Brian Thomson) which doubles as a LED video screen and rotates around on stage to reveal its wonderfully-tropical, party-vibe interior that looks as if it could’ve been designed with bagfuls of purchases from Oriental Trading Company.
Along the way, the friends encounter a number of endearing and challenging characters and situations including the mullet-hair-styled Shirley (Babs Rubenstein), a host of bigoted rednecks, the ping-pong ‘popping’ dancing mail-order bride Cynthia (Chelsea Zeno), and the sympathetic mechanic Bob (Joe Hart) who has long been enamored by female impersonators since his visits to the “Les Girls” revue back in the day. Repeatedly suspended above the action like floating fairies are three singing divas (Emily Afton, Bre Jackson, and Brit West) belting out lyrics from the show’s long string of familiar disco hits and pop songs like “It’s Raining Men,” “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” “I Love the Nightlife,” “I Will Survive,” “Boogie Wonderland,” and more with occasional recorded tracks accompanied by live music from Brent Frederick and the Priscilla Orchestra.
Just as ostentatious and colorful as the actors themselves, Priscilla features hundreds of Tony Award® winning costumes (by Academy Award winning designers Tim Chappell and Lizzy Gardiner) that range from silver stylized Village People outfits to over-the-top cupcake ensembles to the famous flip-flop dress along with dozens of elaborate wigs and shoes galore including three pairs of dance-heeled duck-feet swim flippers.
Far from being a pushy political statement (and vaguely similar in style to La Cage Aux Folles), Priscilla is a fun, extravagant, sexy, adult show (we concur with DSM’s PG-16 rating) about loving and accepting people from diverse dance styles of life. So shake your groove thing on down to Dallas Summer Musicals; for in the words of the wise Bernadette, you’ll “never know unless [you] give it a go.”
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert runs at Dallas Summer Musicals through Sunday, May 26, 2013 with a length of 2 hours and 30 minutes including one 15 minute intermission. For more information about Priscilla, see performance details or visit the Dallas Summer Musicals website.