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BWW Reviews: Over the Moon Design for PRISCILLA Makes for a Knockout Glamorous Show at the Pantages

Priscilla Queen of the Desert the musical/book by Stephan Elliott & Allan Scott/based on the 1994 film distributed by MGM/directed by Simon Philips/Pantages Theatre/through June 16

The mega-popular 1994 film The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert delivered miles and miles of heart. Priscilla Queen of the Desert the musical remains loyal to the movie and is delightfully extravagant and colorful with perhaps the most dazzling array of costumes, amazing sets and brilliant lighting design in theatrical history. So it is no wonder that over the last couple of years it has become almost as popular as the film with touring companies in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Sweden as well as in the US. Now onstage at the Pantages for a mere three weeks, audiences will fall in love with Priscilla... and come away exhilarated.

Few shows are as technically savvy as Priscilla. The tour bus alone is worth the price of admission. (design by Brian Thomson) Every time it turns around to expose the interior, the design changes decor, even if only slightly with a prop or two, or different walls, from one scene to the next. And the lighting (Nick Schlieper) works magic to color the exterior pink with tiny incandescent bulbs that make it look completely repainted. Another technical note involves the three drag queens in performance at the casino in Alice Springs: we see it from behind as if backstage. The curtain opens and closes several times to fast forward the show with lightning speed, revealing the three in new costumes each time. I sat mesmerized, wondering how it was executed. Obviously, the actors are different each time - we only see their backs, but...I finally figured it out, but mum's the word...just be surprised! Needless to say, Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner's 500+ incredible costumes steal the show. Despite Stephan Elliott's book, it's flimsy, mostly fluff, with mere moments of heart... but with all the flair abounding, who cares an inch? This is entertainment at its wild and outrageous best.

If I had one constructive thing to say about the show it would be that I wish it had original music as Kinky Boots does. Not that I do not like the standard tunes, I do, so I'm really not complaining. "It's Raining Men", "Go West", "Hot Stuff", "Macarthur Park", "A Fine Romance", to name a few are all terrific and they work splendidly as the traditional songs did in Mama Mia to move the story along and fill in very specific character emotions. "Colour My World", "Thank God I'm a Country Boy", "Material Girl", "Don't Leave Me This Way"and "We Belong" are but a few fine examples of how the creative team cleverly position the music & lyrics within the plot to suit a particular story element or feeling.

The three actors - Scott Willis as Bernadette, Wade McCollum as Tick and BRyan West as Adam - are a marvel separately...and together. You don't always get the kind of intense chemistry these three have in spades! They are a knockout! Joe Hart is amusing and likable as Bob, Babs Rubinstein and Chelsea Zeno, both a scream in their very different roles, and Emily Afton, Bre Jackson and Brit West delicious as the Divas from on high. This is a fabulous cast who make every moment of the show come to spectacular life under the directorial slickness of Simon Philips.

It seems that Priscilla should play the entire summer at the Pantages. If Wicked could do it, so should Priscilla, but alas, no. There are many other cities on the tour so you only have 3 weeks to see it. Run, don't walk to get tix!

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From This Author - Don Grigware

  Don Grigware was a writer for BroadwayWorld through December 2019.                            ... (read more about this author)