Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hop On The Bus, Girls!

Her Majesty, the great old pink bus Priscilla, Queen of the Desert has arrived in Orlando. And in fabulous drag queen style, of course!

Tonight was opening night here in Orlando for "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert"- the musical, and if the first night audience reaction is emulated for the remainder of their visit here, I think they'll be able to call it a tremendous success.

Of course, being a rabid fan of the early 1990s Australian film (saw it like 8 times!) and its soundtrack CD being my absolute favorite, I had high expectations and was a bit concerned on how true they'd stay to the storyline of the film. Turns out, I needn't have worried. The performance captured all the best costumes, music pieces, and quirky characters from the movie. When it did deviate, it was only to tie in more up-to-date references (the movie is as old a hag as Bernadette, my dears) or incorporate some very imaginative dance moves and musical numbers.

So, anyway, just like the film, the show stars three drag queens (well, actually, technically, two drag queens and one trans woman) who make a road trip across the Australian interior from Sydney to play a gig in Alice Springs. Unknown to the other two, Mitzi has in fact planned the trip in order to fulfill a promise to visit his wife and finally meet his 6-year old son. Now the film has a lot more of an opportunity to develop characters and plot since, unlike this live performance  was not a musical. So, of course, since this is a musical, the characters personalities do come across as a tad flat and 2-dimensional. I think if you hadn't seen the film, you might be a little disconnected from some of the more emotional elements.

But what the story lacked in depth it made up for in really energetic set design and drop-dead-fabulous over-the-top costumes. Most were right from the concepts as portrayed in the movie but many were unique to this show and all were executed flawlessly.

Some of the numbers that really caught my eyes and ears:

The opening with "Miss Understanding" spazing out in homage to Tina Turner.

An imaginative funeral flashback scene sung to "Don't Leave Me This Way."

The "Material Girl" number where we meet Felicia and those hot muscled men.

Hey, wait a minute, I'm pretty much naming every number! Well, they really were ALL good, but to be fair, here are some of the truly inspired ones:

The mullet-sporting, bad eye-shadowed, butch fat woman in the roughneck town bar. Hilarious!

OMG! The ping-pong ball scene! I was wondering if they were going to dare to include this. Not only did they, they really played it up beautifully pairing it with the song "Pop Musik!" Get it? "Pop" Musik!

Towards the end, they did a really cool "quick transition" number simulating the gals' performance at the Alice Springs casino by having various cast members portraying the trio, facing an imagined audience in reverse so their backs are to us, as a moving curtain streams across the stage making them seem as if they magically appeared in new costumes singing a more-and-more sped up musical number. They did flub slightly on the second transition but picked it up wonderfully from there. A really unique and fun illusion.

All during the performance I worried a little about the audience's reception of the show since it looked from my vantage point, front orchestra (yes, much better seats than last week's opera) that it was mostly old people. Well, it is Florida, right? The numbers were tightly timetabled (since there were about thirty songs!) which meant applause was withheld or tepid for most smaller performances. Not for a large portion of the rear orchestra and balcony though who en masse clapped for almost everything. Their enthusiasm was infectious. Avid fans following the tour or just a gaggle of us local gays as a group? In the end though, my culture-starved Orlandoans gave the cast a rousing standing ovation.

I guess even redneck retirees can appreciate a man looking absolutely fierce in a spectacular sequin gown.

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