So how do I write about “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” – again! – and still make it fresh.
Since I’ve seen it five times from London to San Jose, I could claim that I’ve seen it so often as I am a writer and reporting on the show. That could be true but then how do I explain the time I took my niece to see it but didn’t write a thing. Maybe it’s because I am actually addicted. Why wouldn’t I be? It’s the most uplifting, fun, exuberant show and I just can’t get enough.
I could also mention how this musical, adapted from the Oscar winning film, has toe-tapping, high energy songs, Tony winning costumes from the same team that created them in the movie and elaborate over the top sets.
I might even mention how universally excellent the leads are and one of the dancers is so hot he actually sizzles. But stars Wade McCollum, Scott Willis and Bryan West as well as super sexy dancer Taurean Everett are likely tired of me singing their praises.
So then….this time around I thought I’d point out all of the other standouts in the show.
First we have the three divas. All in wonderful voice, especially Brit West. That girl can sing her lungs out and I want to add her to my musical collection. They all are really good and they hang mid-air during most of their time on stage. I know I’d be terrified to do most of my performance in a harness in the air but these divas are fearless. They also remain animated and truly act as anchors to the show.
Then we have Babs Rubenstein as Shirley and other various parts. She’s a comedic beacon among the ensemble. Rubenstein brings a touch of humor with every character she plays and seems to her own enjoyment in the work is infectious.
Another scene stealer is Nik Alexzander who plays Miss Understanding. He does a great Tina Turner impression and has some terrific moments, bantering with the audience as his character is the host of the club in which the drag queens perform in. Let’s also not forget Chelsea Zeno who has the show’s most outrageous moment as the mail order bride who wants to be on stage no matter what. She gets and deserves some of the shows loudest laughs.
I also mentioned in previous reviews the costumes of Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner but now they deserve their own paragraph. These costumes are ingenious and it’s easy to see why they won every award from the movie and the stage production for Best Costumes. Drag queens would just die if they could wear these fierce creations. Whether it be an over-the-top gown or a costume that looks like a cake in the rain or a paintbrush or even a throw-back to Marilyn Monroe, the costumes rock! Couture aficionados might remember that Gardiner wore a dress made of American Express cards when she attended the Oscars the year she won. That dress is still listed as one of the most memorable moments in Oscar history. Her creativity and out of box designs help elevate “Priscilla” to a higher plateau.
Additional people to pull out of the shadows is scenic designer Brian Thomson and assistant choreographer Joshua Buscher. Thomson’s set designs were unbelievable in its original incarnation but to be able to recreate it on the road – including having this giantic bus on stage – is awe-inspiring! Then with that enormous set, we need to have the action move around and that’s where Buscher comes in handy. He has taken the original choreography of the late Ross Coleman and has to continuously compact and tweak it to make it fit on the various stages they have hit while on the road. But his tweaking is worth tweating.
Not to take away anything from the leads of “Priscilla” but it’s nice to be able to mention some other talents associated with this production as it really does take a village. It’s only in San Jose until Nov.3. So go to www.broadwaysanjose.com now to book your tickets before it’s gone. I don’t see many shows five times. But when it makes you feel so energized and spiritually uplifted, shows like “Priscilla” are like crack to me.