March 18, 2011

Don't be a Drag, Just be a Queen

The first movie that I saw Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce in was The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. And I remember how startled I was to see Terence Stamp, who I knew from Superman, play Bernadette the aging transsexual (or transgender as we call them nowadays). I loved the movie for its campy songs, fabulous costumes, and getting a peek into the world of drag queens and the prejudice against them and homosexuals. I've been waiting for Priscilla Queen of the Desert to come to Broadway, and I finally saw it in previews this past weekend. It was everything I wanted it to be---glamorous, poignant, lively,spectacular, touching.
Tony Sheldon originated the role of the sweet, grieving Bernadette in Sydney, then reprised it in the UK and Toronto productions. He is making a fantastic Broadway debut. He/she is the elder "statesman" to Nick Adams's brash and flamboyant Adam/Felicia. Tony-nominated Will Swenson is Tick/Mitzi, who convinces his friends to join him on a road trip through the Australian outback so he can reunite with his son Benji. And also help out his ex-wife Marion (Jessica Phillips) by performing at the casino/hotel that she manages. Aboard their bus Priscilla, their long desert trek puts them in contact with bigots and homophobes. This is where the going gets tough, a sad sign that nothing much has changed since the 1994 movie. With the recent spate of gay teen suicides due to bullying, why can't it get better sooner? Anyway, I think Tony nominations are in order for this show and the actors.
Along the way, they also meet Bob, a kind-hearted mechanic with a Filipino bride Cynthia (J. Elaine Marcos) As a Filipina, I didn't know whether to be amused or offended by Cynthia. All the cast members give terrific performances. Props to the men who wore those outlandish costumes and astronomically high heels. I also liked the 3 women, a Diva chorus if you will: Jacqueline Arnold, Anastacia McCleskey, and Ashley Spencer.
Say what you will about jukebox musicals, but one can make a case that familiar songs do add to the enjoyment of a show. In this case, the film came out anyway long before jukebox musicals were in vogue on stage. They did change some of the songs to make it cater to American tastes. Like Madonna instead of Kylie Minogue. The original Broadway cast album will be available at the Palace Theatre starting 15 March. You can buy them from stores or online on 05 April.
Get ready for a visual feast. But past all that, you will be moved by this show that touches on tolerance, equality, and how as humans, we share the same aspirations, fears, dreams. At its dazzling heart, it's also a story about families: the ones we were born to, and the ones we make. Run in your heels to see this musical. The show opens on the 20th of March.

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