“I thought you came to climb every mountain, not mount every redneck.” I couldn't have said it better myself. The touring production of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert opened at the Orpheum Theatre on Tuesday with empty promises of offering understanding or at least tolerance for the GBLT community. Instead of conveying the seriousness of discrimination, the actors portrayed scantily clad transvestites that clung to each other like a pack of sexually ravenous wolves. This aside, the musical is about, Tick, a transvestite showgirl’s road trip to Alice Springs, Australia with his two friends, Felicia and Bernadette, to keep the promise of seeing his son, Benji.
With flamboyant authority, Bryan West(Felicia) strutted on stage offering a mystical tenor voice that could fit the majority of the 70s pop songs, especially during his number “Hot Stuff.” Emily Afton, Bre Jackson, Brit West(Divas) flew down from above with voices like angels and wigs reaching to dangerous heights. The lead, Wade McCollum(Tick) had a weak voice that faded into the distance leaving unemotional echoes after dramatic plot twists. Will B. Whitesell(Benji) was cute, but seemed lost while noticeably working to recall his lines throughout the musical and needed stage direction during the final number “Finally Melody.”
Sparkles. Neon lights. Pink. The technical elements were nowhere near subtle. The first number “It’s Raining Men” started with the music overpowering the actors’ voices. On numerous accounts, actors would stand in the wrong spot at the beginning of the scene so their faces were shadowed until they eventually moved. Priscilla, the tour bus, was covered in neon changing LEDs that shocked the eyes and tempted seizures with pink glitter during “Colour My World.” A moving belt was used for scene changes, but seemed to break in the first half after sending along a dead kangaroo adorned in red, sparkle blood.
Where there’s a will there’s a way, and this production reminds us that where there’s a transvestite there’s an array of outrageous, sparkly costumes. I found myself drawing the shapes of the costumes trying to figure out what they were supposed to resemble. The transvestites shook about in boat shoes with neon, glittery spandex stretched over them topped with giant hat-wigs during “I Will Survive.” At one point, giant green cupcakes swirled around the stage leaving me in complete confusion. Was this play trying to convince me that transvestites are as strange and foreign as the way the Broadway actors portrayed them?
For the entire first half of the production, I sat in my seat feeling uncomfortable. Men walked around in little to nothing and there were more phallic jokes ejaculated than in a teenage boys’ locker room. The plot felt thrown in and unimportant until the end. However, the audience loved it, laughing at all the puns and giving an immediate standing ovation. Maybe it was because I hadn't seen the movie before going to see the musical, but I did not know how to feel or react while watching it. Even now, I am still slightly confused on what I witnessed this passed Tuesday. I would not recommend the musical, Priscilla: Queen of the Desert to anyone under sixteen, or anyone who feels uncomfortable seeing almost naked men strapped to leashes.