Keith Dougherty’s review of Priscilla Queen of the Desert

July 30th, 2019

Forestburgh Playhouse

Forestburgh

     Where to start to describe a truly magical evening in Forestburgh? How about where it all started in the cozy Tavern a couple of hours before the show with good friends, great food and a cabaret that blew me away. The Forestburgh Playhouse always puts on a very entertaining cabaret during dinner, but this truly raised the bar with a collection of songs that touched the audience as much as they made us laugh out loud. Mackenzie Meyh’s, An Old Fashioned Love Song, from Wild Party, almost stopped the show, not only with her vocal abilities but her wonderful comic timing.

Dylan Goike demanded attention with his rendition of I Am What I Am from La Caux Au Folle, and you could almost hear a pin drop. The full cast was a joy to watch and listen to with Turn it Off from Book of Mormon and Raise You Up/Just Be from Kinky Boots. Of course, I am very happy I stayed to see the marvelous Priscilla Queen of the Desert, but if I had left after the cabaret, I would have gone home completely entertained. Bravo!

Now on to the Playhouse and what could very well be the show of the season. A glitzy, extravagant musical with a book by Australian film director-writer Stephan Elliot and Allan Scott, Priscilla Queen of The Desert uses well-known, and many favorite pop songs as it’s score. This outrageous and fabulously flashy show takes us on a laugh-filled, dancing and singing journey we don’t want to end. The show debuted in Sydney, Australia at the Lyric Theatre in 2006 and had its Broadway debut in 2011, produced by the one and only Bette Midler.

In a sequined nutshell, the musical tells the story of two drag queens, Tick and Adam (Felicia), and a transgender woman, Bernadette, traveling across the Australian desert in a flamboyant bus they dubbed, Priscilla. This unlikely trio are making the journey to perform a drag show in a remote resort, owned by Tick’s wife. Yes, wife. Bernadette and Felicia have no idea that Tick had a wife, let alone a fair-haired, young son at the end of their rainbow. The multitude of colorful characters they meet along their way, including a well-mannered love interest for Bernadette, add just the right amount of fun, a little fear and a whole lot of glitz.

Wonderfully and extravagantly directed and choreographed by Chaz Wolcott, the outrageous costumes by Ashleigh Poteat were worth the price of admission alone, but there was, oh, so much more. As Tick, Chris Gleim brought passion to his role, and competently allowed us to see the heart within all the glamour. Edward Prostak skillfully gave us an appropriate poker face as Bernadette, delivering the best lines in the show with precise comic timing. Kyle Laing was near perfect as the sassy and ever flexible Adam (Felicia), whose lip sync of Sempre Libera was another Forestburgh showstopper. Bernadette’s unexpected love interest, Bob was an understated role, played flawlessly by Steve Luker, who also wins the award for best Australian accent of the night.

There were many other standouts in this lush production, particularly the hysterical Sydney Chow, who hit the shiny nail on the head with her portrayal of Bob’s mail order bride, Cynthia. The trio of Divas progressed the story with musical aplomb, especially the very funny and expressive Breia Kelley. I’ve noticed Kelley’s stage presence in previous Forestburgh productions and would love to see her in a larger, featured role. James Johnson brought the perfect sass to Miss Understanding and Andrew Stevens Purdy was laugh-out-loud funny as a wannabe waiter. Ensemble member, John Zamborsky is always eye-catching and one of the most accomplished dancers on the Forestburgh stage this season.

Honestly, it’s so difficult to single performers out in this wonderful production, as they were all terrific and continue to knock it out of the park as a true ensemble that simply love what they do. The best compliment I can give this show is that I am gathering as many people as I can and going back! Don’t miss it. Congratulations to Producer, Franklin Trapp, for yet another winner and bringing such quality productions and top-notch talent to the area.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert will run until Sunday, August 11th, at the Forestburgh Playhouse. Visit https://www.fbplayhouse.org or call 845-794-1194 for tix & info.

 

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