Priscilla, Queen of the Desert Review – Love in the Outback

Tad Coughenour, Lyle Colby Mackston, and Mario Burrell in PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT - Photo by Matthew Brian Denman

Based on the Oscar-winning hit film, PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT jumps from the screen onto the Celebration stage – just in time to keep the Los Angeles winter sizzling. From the book by Stephan Elliot and Allan Scott, PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT is studded with musical oldies-but-goodies including “I Will Survive,” “A Fine Romance,” and “What’s Love Got to Do with It.” Set in Australia, the play follows the odyssey of three drag queens as they drive across the Outback searching for love and fulfillment in a bus that’s falling apart.

Tad Coughenour, Lyle Colby Mackston, and Mario Burrell – Photo by Matthew Brian Denman

Tick (Mario Burrell) has a problem. It seems that he was married in his youth and sired a son Benji (Jack and Nick Brody in alternate performances) who is eager to meet him after years of absence. His son lives in the Outback at the very center of Australia, an area of desert, Ayres Rock, and aborigines. Tick is truly an urban cowboy but decides that he owes his son a visit. He somehow cons old friends and fellow drag queens Bernadette (Tad Coughenour) and Adam (Lyle Colby Mackston) to join him in the trek through the endless empty miles. Their journey takes them through “Wild West” towns where they are sometimes adored and sometimes despised (depending on their outfits at the moment).

Katie Self, Markesha Chatfield, and Andrea Somera – Photo by Matthew Brian Denman

All the while, music lights up the stage as exuberant dancers strut their stuff. Director Jessica Hanna has fun with the quirky tale, while musical director Jennifer Lin coordinates music and dance with finesse and the able assistance of choreographer Roman Pantoja. Scenic designer Pete Hickok and prop designer Michael O’Hara are at their best building convertible pieces which can become, alternately, a broken-down bus, a bar, a campsite, or a dressing room with the flick of the wrist. Brandon Baruch’s lighting and Rebecca Kessin’s sound carry the day. And let’s not forget Allison Dillard’s over-the top costumes and Byron Batista’s wigs and headdresses.

Marquell Edward Clayton, Lyle Colby Mackston, Jean Paul Batista, and Jamie Pierce – Photo by Matthew Brian Denman

It seems pretty obvious that everyone is having the time of his/her life as the story progresses, and the audience joins in the fun and laughter with zest. Chuckles and guffaws abound as the slightly crazy trio make their way through thick and thin. For this is an extravaganza which is sure to please everyone watching. The intimate nature of the Celebration stage lets the audience feel like part of the action as male (John Paul Batista, Jason De Puy, and Jamie Pierce) and female (Markesha Chatfield, Katie Self, and Andrea Somera) ensemble members entertain their hearts out. And let’s not forget Bob (George Chavez) who falls for one of the trio. Did I mention that there’s a four-piece band hovering in the corner just above the action?

Tad Coughenour, Lyle Colby Mackston, Mario Burrell, and George Chavez – Photo by Matthew Brian Denman

The talented cast takes good natured jabs at some of its own foibles and fantasies with grace and charm. This is an outrageous, terrific show which shouldn’t be missed.

SPLASH SELECTION

PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT runs through April 15, 2018, with performances at 8 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The Celebration Theatre @ the Lex Theatre is located at 6760 Lexington Avenue, Los Angeles, CA. Tickets range from $30 to $60. For information and reservations, call 323-957-1884 or go online.

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