REVIEW: ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ a fun trip
There were a few technical difficulties during the opening night of the Broadway tour of “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” at the Durham Performing Arts Center Tuesday, but it was still a sparkling confection of costumes, music and lighting. “Priscilla” is the name of the bus that two drag queens and a transsexual use to travel across the Australian Outback on the way to a performance where one of them, Tick (Wade McCollum), will meet his son. After intermission, Act Two was delayed a few minutes and the audience was told that the tech difficulties were with the bus but they were “going to give you the best show we can.” The cast and crew of “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” delivered, and this reviewer didn’t think any glitches distracted from the rest of the show. The bus itself, the centerpiece of the set, is a brightly lit show of lighting and set design, much like the sparkly, color changing curtains.
The show is full of camp, and in the second act when Tick is about to meet his son, he asks his friend not to “camp it up too much.” That elicited an audience laugh, as the performances are definitely camping it up. There’s a bit of gratuitous sexual humor, too.
The Australian movie the musical is based on is nearly 20 years old, and the world has changed a bit since then. Still, the moments of gay bashing ring true, if a little awkward in between light, funny musical numbers. One of the most fun songs is the result of Tick seeing that Bernadette (Scott Willis), an aging performer who might find love with a mechanic, left a cake out in the rain. A rendition of “MacArthur Park” in a show like this needs some spectacular cake costumes, and the audience gets them with day-glow green cupcakes.
While the dialogue is a way to take us from songs like “It’s Raining Men” to “True Colors” to “I Will Survive” and “The Floor Show,” it also shows the relationship between three very different performers. McCollum as Tick is deciding how much of his personal and professional life to reveal to his son. Bryan West as Adam/Felicia is young, and a bit wild and naïve. And Willis as Bernadette is well into her career and deciding what to do next. So there are some life choices to ponder amid the laughs, dancing and glittery road trip.
The costumes are beyond creative, with headdresses that serve as more than just toppers on the costumes. The final scene really pulls out all the stops, and goes over the top, with fantastic costume after costume.
The Divas, the three singers (Emily Afton, Bre Jackson and Brit West) who are suspended in the air for much of the show, showcase their wonderful voices while giving the audience one more place to look on stage and be entertained. We can’t see them, but can hear the fantastic job also done by the “Priscilla” orchestra.
WHAT: “Priscilla Queen of the Desert”
WHEN: Through Sunday
WHERE: Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St., Durham