Priscilla Queen of the Desert quite the Australia treat - pink boa's for everyone!
You gotta love the Aussies.
As manly as that country is - heck, Manly is the name of one of Sydney's top beaches - they're still able to get some major laughs out of gay culture. Witness Priscilla Queen of the Desert, which I was lucky enough to see on Tuesday night at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto. I didn't quite know what to expect, but I came away hugely impressed by the acting and the costumes and the sheer audacity of whoever thought up the movie that sparked the play.
Wild doesn't begin to describe it. I mean, I hadn't seen a good skit involving dancing transvestite cupcakes for weeks.
Seriously, it was spectacular. But a little backstory first, if you like, and you can insert your own joke right now about checking the rearview mirror. The story involves a drag queen in Sydney who sets out to rough and ready Alice Springs to visit the six-year-old son he's never seen. He enlists an aging queen and a young, bitchy cohort to go with him and do an act in Alice Springs, but they have a few adventures along the way as they motor their way across the outback in a bus named Priscilla, encountering a few rednecks and some interesting characters along the way. The scene with the cupcakes involves the main character going outside the bus one morning and finding the aging drag queen - played spectacularly by Tony Sheldon - asleep with her head in a cake. This prompts the main character (Tick as a guy, Mitzi when he's in drag) to say how he's always wanted to sing the really stupid 1960s song, Macarthurs Park, which includes lyrics about someone who "left the cake out in the rain," as well as lyrics about sweet green icing flowing down and other cultural oddities probably appreciated most on acid, or at least some really strong dope.
Anyway, as he sings out come a bunch of queens with giant green cupcakes around their middles like some sort of hyper-caloric hoop skirt, complete with green icing and coloured smarties, with towering plastic umbrellas over their heads. Hilarious and incredibly inventive.
I'm not a fan of the music they feature in the play, being more inclined to classic rock or Elvis Costello in the 1970's/1980s versus Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive and anything that got played in places with glittering disco balls. But it's just fine and it fits perfectly with the script and the singers are tremendous and the campy nature is just so overwhelmingly in your face that you can't stop smiling.
I kinda thought the play would paint Outbackers in a bad light, but many of them come across as pretty decent guys, especially Bob, who is exceptionally played by C. David Johnson. He was quietly spectactular, and even tossed off a great ad lib when one of the sets froze in mid-stage. The workers had to come out to get something unstuck, so as he walked off the stage Johnson smiled at the audience and said, "Well, they spent a lot of money on the bus."
I have a couple quibbles about the dialogue, which often snapped but far too often sagged (insert Freudian note here, too). A couple of the lines were simply dumb, including one where an Aboriginal character was asked about something and said, "Don't mind if I didgeri-doo." Ugh. That's about as bad as "adieu, adieu, to yuh and yuh and yuh" in "Sound of Music."
That issue aside, it was a smashing success and thanks to Australia tourism for the Aussie champers to start the night and for a fine show. I'll be in the outback meself in about 10 days time. I've seen Sydney and Melbourne and the Ocean Road and the Great Barrier Reef, but the Outback is purely virgin territory for me (sorry, I can't help it).
I'm so thrilled at the prospect, I'll reach into the (pseudo) disco era and quote Oakland, California's own Pointer Sisters, "I'm So Excited, and I Just Can't Hide It."
I'll be visiting Ayers Rock or Uluru, just as the characters in the play did. But I won't climb it as it's considered an affront to the aboriginal people. And I probably won't take the pink feather boa that the Mirvish people kindly sent my way.