Priscilla Queen Of The Desert

September 30, 2016

in Musicals, Plays

Musical (2006)
Book by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott

Adapted from the film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

Directed by Stacy Stephens

Fiddlehead Theatre Company
Citi Shubert Theater
Theater District, Boston
September 30 – October 9, 2016

With Larry Daggett (Bernadette), Andrew Giordano (Tick), Matthew Tiberi (Adam), Bob Knapp (Bob), Cameron Levesque (Benji), Lynn Craig (Cynthia)

Larry Daggett as Bernadette, Matthew Tiberi as Adam/Felicia, Andrew Giordano as Tick/Mitzi and Company perform 'I Will Survive' in 'Priscilla Queen of the Desert'

Larry Daggett as Bernadette
Matthew Tiberi as Adam/Felicia
Andrew Giordano as Tick/Mitzi
and Company
Perform “I Will Survive”
in “Priscilla Queen of the Desert”
Photo: Courtesy of Fiddlehead Theatre Company/©Eric Antoniou

A silly, fun musical about female impersonators traveling through Australia.

This is outrageous good fun and highlights a lively and flamboyant corner of gay and transsexual life in a way that is engaging and entertaining. There is nothing narratively substantial about this musical, but that does not keep it from providing a good time all around.

The main plot, such as it is, is that Tick (Andrew Giordano), who performs as a female impersonator named Mitzi, is a married father of a six year old son, Benji (Cameron Levesque), whom he has never seen. Cynthia (Lynn Craig), the wife he has left in order to live his life as a female impersonator, is endlessly understanding and welcoming and asks him to come back home from the outer reaches of Australia where he’s been performing in order to meet his son. Naturally this causes trepidation on his part, but he enlists Adam (Matthew Tiberi), a fellow female impersonator, and Bernadette (Larry Daggett), an older transsexual, to come along to make the pilgrimage in a bus across Australia to see his son, and to engage in some performances along the way. Seasoning that odyssey is a subplot involving an intrigue between Bernadette and Bob, a mechanic who helps them out in a pinch.

There is nothing remarkable about the music of this “musical” which is largely made up of non-original popular songs that provide fodder for the lip-syncs of the female impersonators. When there is an original tune or two, it’s harmless but insignificant. The score, so to speak, is unabashedly non-original. Again, it’s just plain good fun.

The text of the show is filled with silly puns, some of which are kind of funny because of clever gay-centric associations. Others of them are sophomoric. Clearly one is not in Stephen Sondheim-land here by any means. This show is, as is what Sondheim writes, a musical of the Broadway sort, but so different an animal they barely belong in the same zoo.

Tamala Baldwin, Lindsay Roberts and Onyie Nwachukwu as The Divas in 'Priscilla Queen of the Desert'

Tamala Baldwin, Lindsay Roberts and Onyie Nwachukwu as The Divas
in “Priscilla Queen of the Desert”
Photo: Courtesy of Fiddlehead Theatre Company/©Eric Antoniou

None of this seems to matter much in a production which thrives on over-the-top garish amusement. Wonderfully playful and completely ridiculous costumes designed by Stacey Stephens, who also directs the show, dish up a lot of the color and outrageousness.

A large amount of dancing by the troupe, mostly by men impersonating women, but also by some women, provides the connective tissue for the show. The choreography is fairly simply done, but the dancing is slinky, supple and engaging, and there’s a lot of it. One can dial back through the sixties and seventies as the wheels roll along and watch amazingly supple torsos, mostly male impersonating female, wiggle and bend to the memorable beats.

Some of the karaoke-type music is pulled off well, and there are many opportunities to groove on oldies. Gloria Gaynor’s 1978 hit I Will Survive gets a lot of air time, generally, shaping production numbers right, left and center.

Andrew Giordano as Tick, Cameron Levesque as Benji in 'Priscilla Queen of the Desert'

Andrew Giordano as Tick
Cameron Levesque as Benji
in “Priscilla Queen of the Desert”
Photo: Courtesy of Fiddlehead Theatre Company/©Eric Antoniou

A fabulously funky trio of black women dressed in large poofy white wigs and white dresses, The Divas (amala Baldwin, Lindsay Roberts, Onyie Nwachukwu), form a Supremes-like background act for much of the goings on, carrying on with devil-may-care flair.

Cameron Levesque as the six year old Benji is really great. He gets to sing a duet with Tick; he’s got a fine voice and can sing in tune. He also acts well. It’s a high point.

That it’s okay to be a female and impersonator and a devoted Dad comes through loud and clear. The chorus line of songs keeps one going along the way to that conclusion, providing enough raucous diversion to make the ride to that sweet but not unexpected destination colorful and bouncy.

– BADMan

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