Director | Choreographer | Co-Producer | Actor
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
The Dolls at the National Hispanic Cultural Center
Review by Stephanie Hainsfurther
Chris Wright-Garcia, Nicholas Handley
and Phillip Arran
Photo by Russell Maynor
The Dolls delight us, that’s a given, but Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the musical, is the pinnacle of their 20 years as Albuquerque’s drag troupe. Billed as a feel-good story, Priscilla is that and more in the hands of The Dolls. This group of theater folk always finds the story’s heart.
Three friends—Tick/Mitzi, Adam/Felicia, and Bernadette—are drag queens who rehearse a show as they travel in their bus, Priscilla, across the Australian desert. Their destination is a casino in Alice Springs, and Tick (Chris Wright-Garcia) is the most eager to get there. It’s no surprise to the audience that he has a wife waiting for him to arrive, and a child he’s never met.
His friends, however, are in the dark about Tick’s secret life, and that goes double for Adam (Nicholas Handley). The word “clueless” seems coined for him, as he refuses to rein in his flamboyance and wit even in a dangerous situation. It takes a beat to realize that Adam’s bravery is his insistence on being himself no matter what the world thinks. Good on ya, mate.
And then there is Bernadette (Phillip Arran), the beating heart of the story. Bernadette is a trans woman whose husband has just died. (They give him the most hilarious funeral you’ve ever been to, wonderfully staged by co-directors Kenneth Ansloan and Jessica Osbourne, and Osbourne as choreographer.) She’s a romantic and, when the bus breaks down, Bernadette and Bob the Mechanic (Thane Kenny) fall in love.
Bob is married to mail-order bride Cynthia (Grace Lapsys), who has a special skill involving ping pong balls. She likes to show off her talents at a local bar. Be prepared to laugh until tears are streaming down your face.
When the troupe gets to Alice Springs with Bob in tow, Tick is reunited with his wife and meets his eight-year-old son Benji, very nicely played by Asher Corbin. Children accept wholeheartedly the people they love.
Live disco music is a real treat, with an orchestra in the pit and strong singers onstage. From “It’s Raining Men” to “I Will Survive,” you are invited to dance and sing in your seat or the aisles. Do it.
Nobody does glitz and glam better than The Dolls and the talented locals they have drawn together for this sparkling show. Special kudos to Miss Understanding (Joe Moncada) for kicking off the show Tina Turner style.
Though July 24, 2016, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, Journal Theatre,