Priscilla Queen of the Desert II symbolically makes it to the top of Ayers Rock

Pictured L to R: Charles Peoples III as Adam, Rudy Guerrero as Tick, and Kim Larsen as Bernadette in PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT, The Musical, directed by John Fisher. A Theatre Rhinoceros Production at the Gateway Theatre (formerly the Eureka Theatre). Photo by David Wilson.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert – The Musical. Book by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott. Directed by John Fisher. Music Direction by Mark Dietrich. Theatre Rhino, Gateway Theatre,  215 Jackson St., (at Battery St.) SF, CA 94111 www.TheRhino.org. May 26 – June 30, 2018.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert  II symbolically makes it to the top of Ayers Rock.

One the defining moments in Priscilla Queen of the Desert –The Musical is the penultimate number “We Belong” sung by the intrepid trio from the top of Ayers Rock overlooking the “world.” Those intrepid travelers are the stars of the show dressed in their finest drag costumes bringing the appreciative and raucous audience to their feet.  That response was only partially earned. It did not match the superb 2017 production of Priscilla that was the most successful show in the history of Theatre Rhino with a sold out run at the Gateway Theatre.

That intrepid trio is Rudy Guerrero and Charles Pope III reprising their roles as Tick/Mitzi and Adam/Felicia respectively with the addition of superb Kim Larsen to play the transsexual Bernadette an aging former star of Les Girls. The costumes, wigs and headdress for the trio and the ensemble are often stunning, always colorful and add pizazz to the evening.  In this reincarnation the recorded orchestrations were over amplified with the lip-synching slightly out of kilter. However when the cast used their own voices they rarely missed a beat.

The Priscilla of the title is an aging bus that takes the trio across the Australian Outback to a gig at a resort in Alice Springs at the base of Ayres Rock. Tick has been invited by his ex-wife to bring the drag show to perform in that venue thus giving him a chance to see his young son Benji ( Cameron Zener) whom he has not seen in eight years. Trouble maker Adam has desires to go to the top of the world (Ayes Rock) in full drag and proudly proclaim his gayness. Bernadette has no allusions about being “out of date” but she is willing to give it one last try.

During the journey they encounter Australians and tourists of all shapes and size some of who object to their lifestyle. Despite the encountered homophobia they blunder on strengthening their friendship while they gain new friends and enemies.

The choreography (AeJay Mitchell) is non-stop starting with the Divas (Caitlin Papp, Phaedra Tillery, Lisa McHenry) 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 of a 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.

Along with the non-stop singing dancing and costume changes pathos is thrown in. How will Benji react a homosexual father. The rough homophobic reactions of the Outback Australians are violently portrayed. The love story that develops between Bernadette and Bob (Cameron Weston) an older Australian married to a Cynthia (Grace Liu) who brings the house down with “I Love the Night Life” and “Pop Muzik” that is hardly tastefully handled.

Priscilla eventually 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 is the lip-sync opera aria “Sempre Libera” by Felicia/Adam sitting on the purple slipper on top of Priscilla. The audience chimed right in.

The curtain raiser of Act 2 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.”

This show runs a long two hours and 30 minutes with a 15 minute intermission just missing the ‘should see’ rating of the 2017 production.

CAST: Suzy Jane Edwards (Ensemble); Rudy Guerrero (Tick/Mitzi); John-Thomas Hanson (Pastor, Ensemble); Morgan Lange (Lars 1, Errol, Jules, Ensemble); Kim Larsen (Bernadette); Grace Liu (Cynthia, Ensemble); Lisa McHenry (Shirley, Diva); Caitlin Papp (Lead Diva); Charles Peoples III (Adam/Felicia); Phaedra Tillery (Diva, Marion); David Tuttle (Miss Understanding, Lars 2, Band Boy, Young Bernadette, Ensemble); Dee Wagner (Marion’s Wife, Ensemble); Cameron Weston (Bob,Ensemble); Cameron Zener (Benji).

Tech Credits: Stephanie Niemann (Stage Manager); Mark Dietrich (Music Director); John Fisher (Director/Producer); Fred Sharkey (Set Construction); James Goode (Sound Designer); Lawrence Helman (Publicist); Robert Horek (Costume Designer); Connor Hagen (Ass’t. Stage Manager); Gilbert Johnson (Set Designer); Sean Keehan (Lighting Designer); Glenn Krumholz (Milner); AeJay Mitchell (Choreographer)

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldim2.com.

Pictured L to R: Charles Peoples III as Adam, Rudy Guerrero as Tick, and Kim Larsen as Bernadette in PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT, The Musical, directed by John Fisher. A Theatre Rhinoceros Production at the Gateway Theatre (formerly the Eureka Theatre).  Photo by David Wilson.