Review: PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT – THE MUSICAL. Book by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott. Based on the film script by Stephan Elliott. Produced by Bainbridge Performing Arts. Direction and Choreography by Jessica Low. Musical Direction by Brandon Peck. Costume Design by Barbara Klingberg. With Melissa Fleming, Hannah Knapp-Jenkins, Emily Welter, Troy Wageman, Matty McCaslin, Bo Mellinger, Ellen Dessler, Gregory Conn, Doug Knoop, Melissa Fleming, Joey Chapman, Trey Field-Bennett, Michelle Abad, Cailin Mackenzie, Shane Patrick Hoffmann, Mariesa Genzale, Andrea Ogg, Josh Wingerter, Ben Wynant, and Derek Villanueva. Now through October 29, 2017 at Bainbridge Performing Arts ( 200 Madison Avenue North, Bainbridge Island ).
With a terrific cast, amazing costumes, marvelous 70’s and 80’s pop hits, and fab-licious drag queen snark, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is a show not to miss.
For Seattleites, Bainbridge Performing Arts Center offers a delightful evening out. Start your foray with a walk onto the Bainbridge ferry (6:20pm sailing Friday, 6:10pm Saturday; 2:05pm Sunday ) and a gentle stroll through Winslow to the Performing Arts Center. For those of you with flexible hours, take an earlier sailing and enjoy dinner at one of Winslow’s terrific eateries.
Approaching Bainbridge Performing Arts, you are welcomed by warm light gleaming from this lovely theater. It is a beautiful, warm and intimate venue with great sight lines and acoustics.
This staging of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is loads of fun, with a very talented cast, truly amazing costumes, a quick pace and never a dull moment.
As in the Oscar winning movie, drag performer Tick/Mitzi (Troy Wageman) convinces his friends and costars Adam/Felicia (Bo Mellinger) and Bernadette (Matty McCaslin) to travel across the desert of Australia to put on a show, and also visit his wife and son. Drag-tastic romps through the songs and ballads of yesteryear follow, fused with the universal search for family, connection, acceptance and love.
My heart was stolen by slinky, sexy, snarky Bo Mellinger as the slender and scantily clad Adam/Felicia. With an amazingly flexible and expressive face, Bo “lip synched” the high notes like no one else can; and also delivered a thoughtful and poignant performance as the catty but sympathetic young drag ingénue. I couldn’t quite decide whether to focus on his six pack abs, his eye lashes, or his strut – but in any case, I had a hard time taking my eyes off him.
Top billing also goes to the less flashy and more grounded Troy Wageman, whose Tick was sympathetic and likable. He elicited a great deal of compassion for his plight of keeping the high strung drag queens in line during their trip across the desert.
Matty McCaslin strongly carried off the transgender Bernadette with the right mixture of poignant longing for love, and just a bit of tired out, crazy, flippant, irreverent old drag queen.
Also turning in strong performances were Hannah Knapp-Jenkins, Emily Welter, and Melissa Fleming as the Divas, a “Greek chorus” whose very strong vocals provided great support throughout the show. Gregory Conn as Miss Understanding in his pink sequin go-go boots elicited a lot of applause, as did Doug Knoop as the aptly named Bob who won Bernadette’s heart, and mine as well.
Amusingly, part of a drag show is that performers lip sync their songs. In this case, Felicia, Mitzi, and Bernadette lip sync to live music performed by the Divas and a top notch band tucked away partially out of view on the famous bus, as well as performing their own songs that were not part of the drag show performance.
This was a very ambitious staging, with a cast of 20, all of whom sang and danced with grace and skill (plus the very talented band). Five dressers assisted in multiple costume changes, created by award winning costume designer Barbara Klingberg. My vote goes to another award for the costumes in this show. Twenty-nine songs included favorites such as What’s Love Got to Do With It, I Love the Nightlife, True Colors, I Will Survive, and Shake Your Groove Thing. With multiple dance numbers, and 20 sets, even Executive Director Dominique Cantwell pulled off her sparkly dress and put on black shadow garb to join the stage hands and ensemble actors making all the scene changes happen on time.
In short, this was a very impressive performance, wonderfully pulled off with humor and skill. Do not hesitate to get your tickets for this performance, as they are selling out quickly.