This road trip at Bluebarn Theatre is really a trip. In Priscilla, Queen of the Desert–the Musical two drag queens and a transgender woman from Sydney, Australia set off to stage a drag show at Alice Springs (note the name) in the remote Australian desert. Hanging on to Priscilla, their battered bus, they find that their arrival turns out to be more than show biz. Tick, Bernadette and Felicia encounter not only inevitably puzzled public encounters and threatening homophobia but also love and acceptance, with complications due to Tick’s former family life. New horizons take shape.
They sing and dance 23 songs in what certainly personifies a jukebox musical. Leaping forward are disco and karaoke hits made famous by Tina Turner, Teddy Pendergrass, Village People, Dionne Warwick, Petula Clark, Donna Summer, John Denver, Brenda Lee plus. Such as “What’s Love Got to Do With It?,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “I Will Survive,” “Shake Your Groove Thing,” “MacArthur Park,” and “We Belong” In this production, the sometimes lip-synching cast takes on numbers live too, performing with a 4-piece band, including music director Doran Schmidt at the keyboard.
The songs may get the spotlight but shimmering along are costumes which could become a show of their own. Costumer Jenny Pool’s clothing mirrors materials which comprise the set: recycled items, akin to what some real life drag queens have designed for themselves under budget constraints.
This is a 2006 recycling by Australia’s Allan Scott and Scotland’s Stephan Elliott of the 1994 film which Elliott wrote and directed. The Broadway version ran for 15 months and has been produced world-wide.
Other Elliott films include Easy Virtue and A Few Best Men. Scott’s include Regeneration, The Awakening, Don’t Look Now, Castaway and The Preacher’s Wife.
“The creators’ delight in recontextualizing these familiar songs is so infectious that you cheer when they get it just right and shrug when the fit is a little strained. Ultimately, it’s impossible to resist ‘Priscilla’s’ eagerness to please. Audiences should prepare for a raucous and scenic ride,” Los Angeles Times.
Imagine Mad Max as Mad Maxine. One of the three Andrews Sisters?
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert The Musical runs May 18-June 25, Bluebarn Theatre, 1106 South 10th St. Thurs.-Sat.: 7:30 p.m., Sun. June 4, 11,18,25: 6 p.m. Tickets: $25-$30. www.bluebarn.org