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December 20th, 2011

Priscilla Queen of the Desert

It's been a long dry spell here, theatrically speaking.  There has been much writing going on, and even more shoveling through papers so we can find things.  Also, launching The Freedom Maze and the Swordspoint audio book.  And the odd con.

We haven't even seen any movies.

So when tickets for Priscilla Queen of the Desert showed up on TDF last week, we were on them like sequins on a bustier.  We'd been talking about getting together with lagringa, so we got tickets for her, too.  There was a party beforehand, all eggnog and cookies (I baked spice molasses cookies for it) and bright lights, so we were in the mood for fun.

And we got it.  With little sparkles and streamers and ruffles and pink, pink, pink EVERYWHERE.  I mean, I've seen the movie, and loved its unapologetic over-the-topness and tone of irreverence and general in-your-facitude, so I thought I had some idea what I was in for, except for the part about the music.  Oh, I knew it was going to be a juke-box musical, with Great Hits of the Eighties, glammed and camped to a farethewell, but there's knowing and there's experiencing.  My dears, it was so over the top, you couldn't see it without a telescope, although you might well have caught the glitter reflecting on our dull world below.  Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner more than deserve the Tony they won for their costumes, which range from dancing paintbrushes to a sheath made entirely of orange flip-flops to some genuinely beautiful show-girl plumes-and-spangles and Bernadette's ladylike ensembles. 

And what about the show itself?  Well, it's silly, it's sentimental, and it's dated.  There are scenes of almost stunning tastelessness, most notably an Aborigine in an orange lame tunic and body paint, followed by three pairs of tourists:  Germans in lederhosen, Scots in kilts and sporrans, and Japanese with cameras, flashing and bowing.  The story doesn't quite make sense, the songs don't always map very clearly onto the action, and the choreography was old in 1987.  Tick's relationship with his son is so heartwarming it's almost nauseating, and the outback Vietnam vet Bob is far too good to be true.  And yet, for me, for us, it worked just fine.  We laughed, we giggled, we howled.

Part of it was the acting--everybody out there clearly was throwing his heart over the moon.  Tony Sheldon as Bernadette discovering that she wasn't as old as she thought she was was particularly lovely, but all the leads were wonderful.  The trio of women singers who actually did most of the singing the leads were lip-syncing to were splendid, especially since they did most of it suspended high above the stage.  And the boy who played Tick's son was adorable, and did an honest and straightforward job of a rather one-note part.  But it isn't just that.  I think it's that the show manages to be simultaneously genuinely naughty and genuinely nice, truly bitchy and truly good-hearted, big and splashy and observant of the little things that persuade an audience that (all evidence to the contrary) they're watching real people with real emotions.  No, it's probably not Great Art.  But it's Great Good Fun, and that, my dears, is nothing to be sneezed at.



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