Last night I tried to take a professional, critical eye when I went to see Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the Princess of Wales Theatre. I’ve failed. From the pink boa that was waiting for me at the box office to the curtain call dance party, my cheeks are aching from grinning and we left the theatre on the ultimate euphoric high.

Based on the cult, Oscar-winning Australian movie, the story follows three drag queens who “came out of the closet and got back into the wardrobe” as they make their way from Sydney (drag capital of the world) to a casino show and a long lost son in the middle of (podunk) Australia. The bedazzled bus they travel in is Priscilla and she IS now my Queen. Fresh of its inaugural London run, this production is the North American premiere, New York and Broadway hasn’t even seen the fabulousity yet. You have a mere 8 weeks to see it and see it you must.

I cannot even begin to describe how wonderful the show is. Having lived in Toronto, London and armed with a lifelong penchant for melodrama, I can admit I’ve seen my fair share of musicals. This one is beyond belief. If you are a girl or a gay, you cannot ask for a better 3 hours than the ones we spent laughing and seat-dancing at ‘Priscilla’. The costumes were disbelief. The most intricate, ornate, glam extravaganza’s you couldn’t even begin to dream up. The bodies were rock hard and practically nude. (I kid not, I could count each abdominal in Felicia’s six pack from the 10th row). It was confusing; I didn’t know whether to be aroused or envious that he looked infinitely better than me in heels. The child actor was used sparingly enough, and was sweet enough, that my uterus fluttered in his big reunion scene featuring an Elvis and Dionne Warwick mash-up. And the songs. Imagine every discoamazingcampgayanthem and then multiply that by bazillions. We’re talking Cyndi, Madonna, Tina, Whitney, Donna Summers… ..This is not a review. This is gushing. It cannot be helped. At intermission we were mourning that it was half over. It might just be the best thing in life.

For whatever reason, I happened to see the film Priscilla (as well as its homage, ‘To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Love Julie Newmar’) about a half dozen times before I turned 15. Fans of the movie will remember the scene of the giant shoe, perched atop of Priscilla and Felicia riding in it through the Australian Desert, silk streaming behind her, singing. And sure enough, out she came, floating over the audience in a silver stiletto, singing her operatic aria. It was beautiful. And then there’s the naughty flipside. I only went to Bangkok at 23 but before high school I’d seen Bob’s wife do her ping-pong thing in the film. As a fan, I was worried they’d cut out the raunchiest and most violent moments. They did not. There were ping pongs aplenty. The hardcore cultists won’t be disappointed and people who haven’t even heard of the film will get the humour and love that is ‘Priscilla’.  For realises: I was sitting beside two elderly couples who were from the middle of Ontario and they were laughing harder at the foreskin jokes than I was!

The show seemed particularly poignant to see in this moment when the young LGBT community is visibly struggling with acceptance and when an outpouring of support  has been documented as a response. Priscilla is truly about celebrating the different, the wonderful and fabulous.  By the time the confetti rained down, we were on our feet, dancing with our pink boa to the best drag show, club music, theatrical experience we’d seen. Grab your girls, your moms, your friends; make it a fab night out. You’ll be so glad you did.


~ Zoe Shapiro