Miami Beach may not be New York’s Great White Way of Broadway but there’s still something special and electric about a shows opening night here in our fair city. The town came out in droves with one thing in mind – to party hardy and dance the night away with the top Divas on the scene. Baubles, beads, feather boas; and that was just what I was wearing. I left the platform high heels to the ladies and professionals of the evening. Head cold and all I forged ahead as they say “The show must go on,” and I must review it. Whoever said glamour was comfortable or easy never had a fever in Miami in 80 degree temperatures in April.
The Broadway show PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT is without a doubt a hoot and a half, rip roaring, champagne flowing great time. This show is so visually stunning it’s hard to believe they pulled it all off on a live stage. We are first greeted by our heavenly trio of divas (Emily Afton, Bre Jackson, Brit West) that descend from the rafters of the stage in full winged regalia complete with silver and white glitter/lame robes, red hair for halos and a rousing “hello!” version of IT’S RAINING MEN. Of course this opening would not be complete without hunky male dancers whom at a vocal point in the song get their clothes ripped off from behind and beneath only to expose their many assets and chiseled physiques. Yes, there’s something in the show for the ladies in the audience as well.
Let me backtrack for just a moment and give you the 411 on the story of the show. Based on the 1994 Australian movie sleeper hit The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, the musical follows three friends and show biz performers, two drag queens and one transsexual, from Sydney to Alice Springs. Priscilla is the name of the worn out but fabulous bus that takes Tick/Mitzi to see the wife and son nobody knew he had. Chris Klink as Tick/Mitzi (Wade McCollum was not at this opening performance) is wonderful in his role and his delivery of his character is true to life and endearing. You can’t help but love is spirit and demeanor. Scott Willis (Bernadette), a middle-aged and totally femme transsexual is the all knowing ‘mother figure’ of our trio. Smart, demur, wise-tracking and sharp as a whip she holds court with undeniable wisdom and truth. During their journey she falls in love with Bob (Joe Hart), the mechanic who rescues Priscilla from mechanical trouble. It’s not all smooth sailing however. Bob has a Latin wife who is also somewhat of a stripper/performer, a really bad one. Her one interesting talent appears to be jettison ping pong balls from her, well you know; which was absolutely jaw dropping hysterical. Bryan West (Adam/Felicia) is the youngest of the trio whose fun loving, outlandish, over-the-top approach to life appeals to everyone in the audience. His Madonna homage (MATERIAL GIRL – all done in pink and later LIKE A PRAYER) is two of the brightest and sparkling highlights of the show. And yet there is so much more to see and hear from our young heroine. It’s impossible to top his red hot sizzling number Donna Summer’s classic, HOT STUFF.
The costumes and wigs by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner are a sight to behold and enough to make Cher jealous; now you know they’re fabulous, 500 and counting. That’s a lot of yards of material and fake hair ladies and gents. The divalicious songs lip-synched are the cream of the crop when it comes to the disco era that the show takes place in. But don’t let that fool you. For those that are familiar with ‘drag shows’ this version of lip-synching is not the expected. True, our three heroes/heroines are playing up to the music and do get to showcase their own powerful vocal chops; however it is the three Divas high above the stage that are doing ‘show stopping’ vocal numbers when it comes to the scenes in the various clubs they stop at. They are nothing short of enchanting and spectacular. The popular numbers include the iconic I Will Survive, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, What’s Love Got to Do with It? (which I guarantee you if you see this show is version you will NEVER forget, I know I won’t – Tina Turner would be proud), True Colors and an unforgettable show stopping version of Tick performing MacArthur Park. Someone finally left a cake out in the rain.
There is however one particular musical selection that just can’t be missed: Felicia riding the roof of Priscilla draped in a silver body suit and flowing cape, surrounded by our divas and lip-synching to SEMPRE LIBERA. It is a sight that will be a gleeful smile to your face that you will carry with you every time you remember it on your ride home. It was in a word: unforgettable. Tick and his son Benji’s gentle and touching duet ALWAYS ON MY MIND brings a tear to the eye without overplaying the dramatic card. The finale including Pat Benatar’s WE BELONG and other songs is a rousing finish to a perfectly played evening complete with amazing gowns worn by our trio and ensemble cast.
PRISCILLA is full of heart, soul and above all a lesson about tolerance and friendship. It is a wonderful show and judging by the opening night audience tonight there will be a wonderful buzz in Miami tomorrow morning. Simon Phillips direction is right on and seamless. The choreography by Ross Coleman is wonderful and fun. Set designer Brian Thomson truly outdid himself especially when it came to Priscilla and all of her nuances’. Cassie Hanlon make-up is bright and really brings the characters to life.
Don’t miss this fabulous and festive experience. The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert is a boneafide hit that will have you dancing, singing and very happy you made it to the show.