Photo by Don Kellogg

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Here she comes boys.... the granddaddy of all drag shows will be rolling it's bus into our town this winter.  For me, I got the chance to go see her out of town in Toronto this past weekend and let me tell you right now - it is going to be over the T.O.P - filled with glitter, glitz, and gay boys in outrageously colorful costumes singing campy pop hits.  One note, probably because there is already one ABBA show running on Broadway, the producers made a wise decision to change (and update) the young character's obsession from ABBA to Madonna.  A very wise choice, indeed. Who doesn't want to see 3 drag queens strutting their stuff to any number of Madge's tunes, right?

By way of background - I've never seen the movie (yes, i know, take my card away).  So this experience was a genuine first.  Many people have told me what the movie was like - and i can read too - but for me not having seen the movie might have made this production even more special.  I have a feeling, like so many iconic movies, no matter what they do on stage, everyone will say "it doesn't compare" or "the movie was so much better".   That's probably a losing battle for the producers so they don't even try to fight it.  Where they win is in the production quality (read camp) of the musical numbers.  Nothing beats a bunch of drag queens in outrageous costumes strutting their stuff on a broadway stage.  Throw in some really cool and over the top video projection and lighting effects and a book that keeps it gay gay gay and you end up with something that's destined for success on the great pink way.

Bringing a show like this to the stage is bound to introduce some complications to downsize and focus the book.  The fact that there was an actual bus on stage was a big score for the production.  Without that one rather large piece of technology, i doubt this show would ever have made it out of previews.  I would also think when it gets to the Palace, the first thing they'll do is remove the Chandelier in the middle of the theatre and replace it with one great big disco ball.  The one downside I feel obliged to highlight is that I didn't feel there was a very deep story being told.  Many have told me that the movie (remember, the inevitable comparison) was touching and tender as well as being campy and gay.  Well, if there is one thing this show is lacking, it's a deep story.  It felt a bit shallow, trimmed down and condensed for the sake of Broadway's unavoidable moderate, fun-loving audiences.

Despite this one minor drawback, the talent on the stage more than made up for lack of story.  Nick Adams (Felicia), Will Swenson (Tick) and Tony Sheldon (Bernadette) helm this production like no others could.  Adams, who most call a triple threat,  is drop dead gorgeous, unbelievably pliable and genuinely adorable all rolled up in one.  And folks, when I say hot, i mean burn your fingers off if you touch him HOT.  Swenson is tender and lovable and Sheldon takes Bernadette to a level I think only Charles Busch could compete with (Busch wasn't in the show, just for the record).

Ladies, when this bus rolls into town at the Palace Theatre you had better have exact change all lined up!  Next stop - Alice Springs!