It’s raining men, bus it’s the drag queens who reign supreme at the Benedum.
And that’s because Priscilla Queen of the Desert is a drag.
And that’s a high compliment.
The musical based on the 1994 Australian cult film about three drag queens transvering the Australian outback on their way to a gig, is a shimmering, sequined extravaganza that recalls those sumptuous MGM musicals but that is, ultimately, little more than a lavish chicks-with-dicks revue. It lacks the emotional wallop of La Cage aux Folles, but the trip with Tick, Adam and Bernadette is an enjoyable, hilarious and feathered and festive romp that offers, here and there, gentle reminders of the importance of acceptance and love . . . the true colors that life is a rainbow.
Really now, where else are you going to see men dressed as dancing cupcakes, bewigged (real female) divas descending from the rafters and costume designers Lizzy Gardiner and Tim Chappel Tony-winning 500+ eye-popping wonders. I only hope Antoinette Perry shows her appeication by turning in her grave in a tux. The show, currently at the Benedum until Sunday, features fave tunes---mostly disco, but familiar tunes that once belongned to Madonna, Willie Nelson, Frank Sinatra, Dionne Warwick, Petula Clark, Cyndi Lauper, Maureen McGovern, even Willie Nelson and John Denver,.that leave audiences singing and dancing along. (Interesting, the opening night crowd was more reserved than expected. And I’m still not sure why “I’ve Never Been to Me” was cut.)
There is much lip-synching by drag queens to divas---not a hidden fact of the show since it actually adds to the world of raucous illusion.
The fun starts before the curtain goes up . . . besides the usual no cell phones spiel, there’s an annoucement to “take off all large wigs and place them under the seat in front of you.”
Some of the show may offend---perhaps that’s why at least 10 couples walked out during Act One. (Funny, but no one left when one woman demosntarted the art of shooting pink ping pong balls, stamped with the show’s logo and grabbed up by eager fans who will sell them on ebay, from her vagina.)
Pay close attention because the dialogue and jokes and visual fly faster than a ping pong ball. Some of the dialogue is so silly it’s funny . . . “body by Baywatch, brain by Pamela Anderson.” My fave: “get some new tits, they look like cross-eyed.” The sign welcoming the gang to Coober Pepy features “deep shafts” aand “unmarked holes.”
The movie's writer and director Stephan Elliott, who penned the stage version with Allan Scott, has strengthened and tighthened some of the film’s weaker moments and was smart enough to keep all the camp in place.
The cast is superb, lead by Wade McCollum, Scott Willis and Bryan West as drag queens Mitzi, Bernadette and Felicia, are maginificent. Scenes between unhappily married mechanic Bob and bereaved transsexual Bernadette are quite moving; almost as poignant are the scenes between father Tick (aka Mitzi) and his son Benji. It’s funny to find out Bernadette’s 25-yar-old husband, Trumpet, died of asphyxiation while peroxidinghis hair; it’s piss-in-your-panties hilarious why he was nicknamed Trumpet. Priscilla, the trailer that takes the royal trio across the desert, is as much a star: Her wheels roll and they boys/girls romp. Even in her silence, she offers chuckles, with a license plate (ME-69-NU) and sign (Rear Entry Upon Request) that amuses.
I love the night life.
I got to boogie.
I got to see the show again.
For tickets, call (412) 456-666 or visit trustarts.culturaldistrict.org/production/32861/priscilla-queen-of-the-desert#tab=buy_tickets