With more sparkles and boas than have ever graced the stage of the Fabulous Fox Theatre, “Priscilla: Queen of the Desert” performed with incredible energy last week. This jukebox musical features a hit parade of dance floor favorites, including “It’s Raining Men,” “Finally,” “I Will Survive” and other pop hits from the past three decades.
Drag performer Tick (Wade McCullum), called Mitzi on stage, enlists older transsexual pal, Bernadette (Scott Willis), and sassy young drag queen, Felicia (Bryan West), also called Adam, to accompany him on a road trip from Sydney to Alice Springs in a battered old bus named Priscilla.
The journey takes the three unlikely pals through various small towns in Australia, such as Bumbaldry, Cockburn and Top Ryde. The reason for their journey, as Tick’s friends believe, is a job performing a drag show at a small-town casino. However, Tick has ulterior motives, as he hopes t
o meet his 6-year-old son, Benji (Shane Davis at some performances, Will B. Whitesell at others), whom he left behind to pursue his drag queen aspirations in the big city.
During the long journey, the three travelers deal with petty squabbles among each other and run into troubles with communities who have never encountered drag queens and transvestites. They also meet a wide variety of local characters, particularly when Priscilla breaks down in the middle of the outback. One of the three even finds love in the form of an unlikely mechanic.
“Priscilla: Queen of the Desert” has the potential to have heart and substance, but this particular production remained simply campy and goofy. Every last inch of the stage was bedazzled in an effort to recreate the environment of a late-night disco. Needless to say, it took a few numbers for my eyes to get adjusted to the flashy set, lighting and costumes. The music and story did not always correspond, and awkward transitions from scenes to song were frequent. For example, when the trio comes back to their van to discover homophobic slurs written across the side, the audience gets to taste actual emotion from the show. However, when the three burst into a corny rendition o
f “True Colors,” I was completely taken out of the moment.
Although the production was not the best of the Fox’s season, some actors stood out. The three “divas,” who act as narrators throughout the show were phenomenal. Emily Afton, Bree Jackson and Brit West sing with incredible voices and feisty energy. Scott Willis, as the older and wiser Bernadette, gave an honest performance. Bryan West, as Adam/Felicia, sang and danced with an excellent voice and incredible energy.
However, one distracting element of the performance was the lack of projection, either because of the actors’ voices or, more likely, a microphone issue. It was very difficult to hear the dialogue over the band, particularly with their exaggerated Australian accents.
Overall, the performance is fun and entertaining with a great deal to watch and listen to. The jokes and one-liners can be groan-inducing and the pop songs are awkwardly placed between scenes, but odds are you will dance and clap when it comes time for curtain call.
The show runs until Sunday, Feb. 10. For more information about the show and details about student rush tickets visit www.fabulousfox.com.