The Australian outback isn’t the only wild part of the decidedly atypical road trip we take with a cast of colourful characters in the Tony-Award winning musical, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, now on stage at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse.
Based on the award-winning indie film of the same name, the story follows three cross-dressing performers – Mitzi (Robbie Towns), Felicia (Billy Lake) and Bernadette (Patrick R. Brown) – on their adventure across rural Australia in a battered lavender bus, lovingly nicknamed Priscilla. They may not be very fond of each other at first, but eventually become closer along the way.
The group travels west from Sydney to perform a drag show at a remote resort in Alice Springs, encountering a comedy of errors along the way. Their journey turns from a simple trek into one of enlightening self-discovery.
“I think people will be surprised at how much fun they’ll have, and I think they’ll be surprised at how touching the story really is,” said Brown, who plays Bernadette Bassenger. “At its heart, it’s really just about people looking for love and accidentally discovering it.”
“I don’t want to give too much away, but I can say it is literally surprise after surprise after surprise,” he added.
Along with the case, music is also a prominent part of the entertainment. Audiences will recognize classic disco hits including “I Will Survive,” “It’s Raining Men,” “Hot Stuff,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Boogie Wonderland” and “Finally.”
“This is the most fun you can have at the theatre,” said Drayton Entertainment artistic director Alex Mustakas. “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is not only packed with dance floor favourites, it is a visual spectacle full of outrageous costumes, sequins and feathers, towering headpieces, dazzling dancing and more – all wrapped around a poignant story about love, acceptance and the meaning of family. Audiences are going to laugh, dance and cheer.”
Brown also noted that the cast isn’t your typical Hollywood lineup, which was particularly noteworthy for the time period when the film was released.
“What’s unique about this show is that it’s about counterculture,” said Brown. “There aren’t really many musicals – I don’t know if I can name another one – whose lead characters are two drag queens and a transgendered woman. It’s a very unique story, especially considering the age of this show – it came out in the 90s. So even 15 years ago we weren’t talking about transgender nearly as much as we are now.”
In addition to the central trio, Tiffany Deriveau, Kelly Holiff and Stacey Kay add their vocal finesse as the Divas. They also act as a narrative voice for the tale.
“We have an incredibly talented and energetic ensemble,” said Brown. “They’re in all the big production numbers and dance numbers and out of that ensemble, some unique and colourful characters appear on their journey as well.”
Other roles include JJ Gerber as the mischievous Tina Turner-esque drag queen, Miss Understanding, Gabrielle Jones as Shirley, the owner of the Broken Hill Pub, and Brad Rudy as Bob, a local mechanic who helps the trio out of a jam.
Monique Lund takes on the role of Marion, the estranged wife of Anthony “Tick” Belrose (aka Mitzi) and mother to their 8-year-old son Benjamin, played by Thomas Winiker.
The Drayton Entertainment production of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert runs through April 7 at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse. Tickets are $48, $29 for youth under 20, available online , at the box office or by calling (519) 747-7788 or toll free at 1-855-DRAYTON (372-9866).