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NY Theater Reviews

Will Swensen, Nick Adams and Tony Sheldon/ Ph: Joan Marcus

WAY OVER THE TOP

By MATT WINDMAN

You really want to have fun, but Priscilla is so aggressively campy that it becomes irritating and too much to stomach.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert is not so much a normal musical but rather a loud, oversized karaoke party and midnight drag show. You really want to have fun, but it is so aggressively campy that it soon becomes irritating and too much to stomach.
 
Adapted from the cult Australian film The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, it observes a trio of gay drag queens traveling across the Australian outback in a broken-down bus.
 
Tick (Will Swenson), who is still technically married, has promised to perform at his estranged wife’s hotel. He is joined by Bernadette (Tony Sheldon), a much older transsexual recovering from his lover’s recent death; and Adam (Nick Adams), a younger, muscular and dangerously impulsive performer.
 
As in the film, the stage musical features recognizable dance-floor hits such as “It’s Raining Men,” “Like a Virgin,” “I Will Survive,” “I Love the Night Life” and even “MacArthur Park.” The lack of an original score makes the show come across as silly and superficial.
 
The constant lip-synching, in which females either offstage or hanging from above sing while the men mime the lyrics with exaggerated gestures, is extremely distracting.
 
But glitzy production values have certainly not been ignored – even to the point of being too garish. A giant bus spins across the stage, and the cast wears thoroughly elaborate outlandish costumes and headdresses. The men are dressed as not only women but also paintbrushes, cupcakes and The Village People.
 
Sheldon, who has also played Bernadette in prior productions of the musical, gives the most deeply felt performance, while Swenson and Adams are to be commended for their relentless physical stamina.