"Priscilla Queen Of The Desert" Reviewed, Friday, January 20th, 2012
What do you expect when you go to a Broadway Musical filled to overflowing with 1980's disco hit songs telling the story of two drag queens and a transgendered person, driving from Sydney to Alice (aka the middle of nowhere) Australia? You expect a gay fantasia somewhere in the land where camp, cliche and homosexual equality lives? Congrats because that's exactly what you get.
Tick (Will Swenson) is a dancer at a drag queen hangout who gets a call from his ex-wife who tells him Tick's son (no, no, don't worry Tick is gay) wants to meet him and so, along with Bernadette (Tony Sheldon) reeling from the death of his/her boyfriend and Madonna maniac, Adam, take a van they call "Priscilla, The Queen Of The Desert" and travel across the outback.
A little name calling and gay bashing notwithstanding, the trip is mostly fun, with three divas as Greek chorus helping the procedures, and honestly, one really well performed disco number after another. This works while the Dylan ballet didn't because it is much easier to cover "I Love The Nightlife" than it is to cover "Positively Sweet Marie". The old 1980s recordings all sound a little twee today. they were made not simply before House became the sound of choice but also before the days of infinite tracks. The result is that many of these songs sound a little shallow for a modern audience , these remakes give em heft. When they don't sound better, "It's Raining Men", they work as tribute, "Hot Stuff".
The production values are very high, the dancing perfect: the company moves from gay disco dancing to country do-ce-do with ease and the set is a marvel. If it is cheap it sure doesn't feel touring cheap. It doesn't use the somewhat working class milieu as an excuse to be stingy.
The book, while a little cliched, is certainly about as smart as a mainstream Broadway Musical is gonna get in matters gay. Tick's angry response to Adam's attempt to dress like a woman and pick up cowboys, it goes awry to put it mildly, a very smart one. And while Tick's happy ending with his son seems a little unlikely, I'll buy it, why not?
The acting is pretty good. All three leads are excellent. Tony Sheldon gets all of the ladylike Bernadette, and Will Swenson, so good in Hair a couple of years, actually is never camp at all.
I would have shaved maybe ten minutes, maybe 15, maybe merged the two straight bar scenes into one, and the second act dragged around the yucky "Pop Muzik" performance. But otherwise, not bad at all.