PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT – The Musical. Book by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott. Based on the Latent Image/Specific Films Motion Picture. Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. Directed by John Fisher. Musical Direction by Dan Feyer. Theatre Rhinoceros, Eureka Theatre – 215 Jackson St., (at Battery St.) SF, CA. www.TheRhino.org. May 27 – July 1, 2017
PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT the musical is a colorful winner at the Eureka by Rhino Theatre. Rating: 1/2
Every so often there are good to great shows at the intimate Eureka Theatre. PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT the musical is one of the great ones earning a well-deserved standing ovation. Theatre Rhino under the direction of John Fisher has created an extravaganza with a 16 member cast playing over 30 roles (not counting their turn in the ensemble). They have pulled out all the stops and probably depleted their budget creating a bus that fills the stage and costumed the players in an abundance of “got to be seen to be believed dress.” The hats almost steal the show.
The bus ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ of the title is an aging bus (Gilbert Johnson ,scenic designer) that takes two drag queens Tick/Mitzi (Rudy Guerrero), Adam/Felicia (Charles Peoples III)) and Bernadette (Darryl V. Jones) an aging transsexual on an unbelievable journey from Sydney across the inland Australia desert to Alice Springs. There is no need to have seen the movie but if you have you will probably go back and see it again if you have not already done so.
This performance uses recorded orchestral music with the cast using their own voices that range from great to fair and always with feeling. The choreography (AeJay Mitchell) is non-stop starting with the Divas (Anna Johan, Mary Kalita & Nicole Thordsen) setting the pace with Tick and the Boys singing “It’s Raining Men.” Then there are some songs, and of course dances, on a relatively bare stage in front rear stage sequin curtain before bad boy (relatively) Adam/Felicia shows up in stiletto heeled shoes to dance it up with the Divas and set the tone for the “entrance” of Priscilla with “Go West.” With that introduction two of the “Boys” push out Priscilla from behind the sequins and you can hear a visible “wow” from the audience especially when the bus is rotated and the colorful interior is revealed.
Adam wants to take the trip to climb Ayer’s Rock in the middle of the desert and see the top of the world. Tick, because of his homosexuality is separated from has a wife Marion (Mary Kalita) and their eight year old son Benji (Henry Bayha opening night) who live in Alice Springs. She runs a gambling Casino and needs an act to fill an empty slot and calls in a favor for Tick to bring his show to Alice Springs and also reunite with his son. The third member to go on this intrepid journey is the aging lip-sync drag queen transvestite Bernadette who has recently lost her partner.
Along with the non-stop singing dancing and costume changes pathos is thrown in. How will Benji react a homosexual father and the rough homophobic reactions of the Outback Australians is violently portrayed. The love story that develops between Bernadette and Bob (Cameron Weston) an older Australian married to a Cynthia (Crystal Liu who brings the house down with “Pop Muzik”) is tastefully handled.
Eventually Priscilla gets her pink color “Color me Pink” after she has been defiled with a gross remark by the homophobes. It is one of the many show stopping production numbers with Tike/Mitzi in a costume made of flip-flops and the ensemble in costumes of paint brushes and hats of paint cans.
It is difficult to remember all the energetic dances enhanced by a great song list and one of the best was the lip-sync opera aria “Sempre Libera” by Adam sitting on the purple slipper on top of Priscilla.
After a great Act one, the curtain raiser is an ensemble number “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” with audience members brought on stage to share in the dance. This is followed by another show stopper “A Fine Romance.” To mention a few of the songs: “I Say a Little Prayer”, “True Colors”, “I Will Survive”, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “We Belong.”
There are a few weak spots in this show that do not detract from the marvelous fun evening that is a solid “should see” production and an almost “must see.” Running time two hours and 30 minutes including the 15 minute intermission.
CAST: Patrick Brewer (Boy 1; Tad; Farrah Fawcett; Lars 2; Frank); Henry Bayha-Gewertz (Benji); Dominic deQuattro (Benji); Rudy Guerrero* (Tick/Mitzi); Darryl V. Jones (Bernadette); Anna L. Joham (Diva, Ensemble); Mary Kalita (Solo Diva; Marion); Stephen Kanaski (Miss Understanding; Boy 3; Lars 3); Kim Larsen (Ensemble; Pastor; Errol; Jimmy; Barman; Dingo); Crystal Liu (GIRL 1; Japanese Tourist; Cynthia; Tasmanian Devil); Derek Miller (Boy 2; Lars 1; Scottish Tourist); Charles Peoples III (Adam/Felicia); Nicole Thordsen (Diva; Shirley; Kangeroo); Kyle Vetter (Benji); Cameron Weston (Boy 3; Brian; Bob); Crystal Why (Ensemble); Diogo Zavadzki (Boy 4; Lars 3; Jules; Kangeroo). (The role of Benji is triple cast.)
ARTISTIC STAFF: Jan Brown (Stage Manager); Dan Feyer (Music Director); John Fisher (Director/Producer); Fred Sharkey (Set Construction); James Goode (Sound Designer); Lawrence Helman (Publicist); Robert Horek (Costume Designer); Krista Jarboe (Ass’t. Stage Manager); Gilbert Johnson (Set Designer); John Karr (Wardrobe); Sean Keehan (Lighting Designer); Glenn Krumholz (Milner); AeJay Mitchell (Choreographer).
Kedar K. Adour, MD
Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.
Pictured left to right: Rudy Guerrero* as Tick, Charles Peoples III as Adam, and Darryl V. Jones* as Bernadette in PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT.
Directed by John Fisher. A Theatre Rhinoceros Production at the Eureka Theatre. Photo by David Wilson.
Pictured left to right: Darryl V. Jones* as Bernadette, Charles Peoples III as Adam, Rudy Guerrero* as Tick and the Company in PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT, directed by John Fisher. A Theatre Rhinoceros Production at the Eureka Theatre, Photo by David Wilson.