“Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” onstage now at DPAC, follows the misadventures of two drag queens and a transsexual as they journey from downtown Sydney to faraway Alice Springs. The three plan to perform a show once they arrive, but Tick (Wade McCollum) has an ulterior motive for making the journey: he wishes to meet and form a relationship with his son Benji (Shane Davis). Wild and impulsive Adam/Felicia (Bryan West) is on a quest to perform atop a mountain in full drag, while super-sassy Bernadette (Scott Willis) just wants one last chance at finding true love.
The performance is filled with sparkling sets and fun renditions of contemporary classics, such as “It’s Raining Men,” “Material Girl,” and “We Belong.” And, of course, the costumes—especially the drag regalia—are fantastic; think feathers, bright colors, and copious amounts of glitter. Despite all the over-the-top campiness, tender undertones emerge. Tick touchingly desires acceptance from his son, and the group as a whole wants acceptance from the world around them, acceptance that doesn’t always come. The production utilizes some unexpected songs to frame the story’s more poignant moments, and they work surprisingly well. “I Say a Little Prayer,” for example, becomes a thoughtful ballad about how Tick and Benji think of each other daily, and “True Colors” serves a comforting purpose after the group is the victim of a hate act.
Not all of the song choices go off so well, however. Some songs feel a little crammed-in, as if the writers were desperately trying to find a way to make old favorites suit the story. There is also a sense, throughout, that something isn’t quite right—the story feels a tad too quick, a touch too piecemeal; undoubtedly, this is the result of trying to stretch a fairly short movie into a full-length theatrical production.
With these issues aside, “Priscilla” is a lot of fun. Spunky choreography, endearing performances from the three leads, and plenty of raunchy humor keep audiences intrigued throughout. The production also makes use of vibrant color, giving viewers somewhere to look and something to see at all times. The show’s namesake bus, for example, is “painted” using automated pink lights, and streamers shoot out into the audience more than once. If you’re in the mood for a good, guilty pleasure, “Priscilla” is your man (or woman).