‘Priscilla’ is an outrageous, crowd-pleasing musical with a disco beat.
I wasn’t so sure I would love “Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical,” a show about drag queens traveling through the Australian outback by bus, with a musical score of disco hits. It looked potentially garish, pushy and cartoonish.
When I entered the State Theatre on Tuesday night and saw the audience loaded with senior citizens, I seriously wondered how the show was going to be received.
But then it started and everyone, yours truly included, got caught up in the comical and often bawdy dialogue, the outrageous costumes, the infectious and familiar songs — “I Will Survive,” “It’s Raining Men,” etc. — and the storyline which has a genuine emotional pull. The laughter and applause were hearty throughout, there was a lively buzz at intermission, and the standing ovation at curtain call was enthusiastic.
Based on a 1994 Australian film, “Priscilla” follows a female impersonator named Tick (Wade McCollum), who is summoned by his estranged wife to come visit his 6-year-old son at a casino she operates in the desert. Without telling them about his family, he recruits two of his fellow drag artistes, the snappy and mischievous Adam (Bryan West) and the older, wiser Bernadette (Scott Willis), to come along for the ride and entertain at the casino.
Along the way, the trio tangle with Australia’s version of rural rednecks in a hilarious tavern sequence, and endure a bus breakdown that brings Bernadette an unlikely suitor. The reunion of Tick with his adoring little boy is a heart-tugger. The frequent production numbers, many with three singing divas suspended high above, feature eye-popping, Tony Award-winning costumes. And the three leading actors are terrific in singing, dancing, dramatics and sass.
Performances continue through Jan. 27, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets, $10 to $75, are on sale at www.playhousesquare.org and 216-241-6000.