The wait is over. Priscilla Queen of the Desert – The Musical struts onto The Fabulous Fox stage, Jan. 29 – Feb. 10. Check out fabulousfox.com for more details and ticket info.
Outrageous and brilliant – this must-see show tells the uplifting story of a trio of friends on a road trip of a lifetime, who hop aboard a battered old bus searching for love and friendship in the middle of the Australian outback and end up finding more than they could ever have dreamed.
Based on the 1994 hit film, Priscilla boasts over 500 dazzling, 2011 Tony Award®-winning costumes and features a hit parade of dance-floor favorites including “It's Raining Men,” “Finally” and “I Will Survive.”
Vital VOICE recently caught up with Bryan West who plays Adam/Felicia in this undisputed high-camp queer classic to chat about the musical, doing drag for the first time and his message to LGBT youth.
So what was your reaction when you heard you’d been cast as Adam/Felicia in Priscilla’s first national tour?
Part of me was like – do I really want to go on the road? But I love the character so much, I love doing the show. I did the original show here on Broadway and to just be able to take that character and the show out to the rest of the country was just a really exciting feeling for me.
You were a member of the Priscilla ensemble in both Toronto and on Broadway. Talk about that experience and what ideal preparation for this role!
It was pretty great. We had the entire Australian creative team – it was their first Broadway show, so they were kind of doing everything “not by the book” – which I found really refreshing. It was all coming from a place of not trying to impress me but just keeping true to their version of the show. I’ve been in a lot of other shows where you have to answer to a lot of different people, so it was nice to be able to have them to look up to and hear the back story on the show. I loved the movie from when I was a kid – so reading the book and seeing that they were staying really true to that was exciting for me. And it was also really great to see how the audience—they just loved it. I’ve never been in a show where the audience reacted like this before. Just pure joy – and at the times in the show where it’s a sad moment, it just really hit home with New York audiences.
The film is already considered a gay cinematic classic. Could you talk about your experience of first seeing the movie?
I just remember not having ever seen anything like that. I think the closest that I’d ever come was The Rocky Horror Picture Show or something like that. But I think the outrageousness of the drag but still having those characters that are so real – they played off each other really well. And of course, the costumes were amazing and the makeup. I’d never done drag before doing this show and being in drag gives you this whole suit of armor and it’s really empowering .That was surprising to me.
Priscilla is uplifting and empowering – particularly to gay audiences. We still find ourselves starved for representation on the stage and screen. Could you speak to the power of a positive gay storyline?
It’s a huge deal. There’s never been, as far as I know, a transsexual character on the Broadway stage like this, like Bernadette and then also having a gay drag performer who is a father. A lot of people will say gays have children all the time now and I think they miss the point that living in a drag community and working in a drag bar and all that kind of stuff – I would tend to think that the idea of having a child and having been married is pretty rare. So to be able to portray that to people and give them a new perspective on that is really important.
Totally. The show is brilliant. It disarms people in the audience who may have preconceived ideas about what drag is. The show is just so fun, so immediately people are having a good time. And just when they’re having a really good time, we touch on really important things like getting gay bashed. My character, specifically – there’s a very violent moment where I get beat up in the show and I think it just shows people that we’re not cartoon characters. It’s also really great to see—we have a lot of drag queens who come to see the show and I know that when we’re out on the road we’ll have a lot of that. Just to represent to them and all the hard work that they do – it’s really important.
I enter the show from the sky on cables and I have a huge fear of heights. So dangling that far above the stage was something for me to overcome – and now I love it. I just love entering that way – I’m dressed as Marilyn Monroe doing “Material Girl” and then the dress gets ripped off and then I’m in just these stiletto heels and a bustier and then I become very androgynous. I love starting the number as a pretty Marilyn Monroe and ending it as a very androgynous, part man/part woman type character. That’s pretty powerful for me to do.
What do you hope audiences will take away from seeing Priscilla Queen of the Desert – The Musical?
Well, first of all I hope that they have as much fun as the people in New York did. I was thinking about all these new shows out right now that are representing new forms of families – Modern Family and The New Normal – and I just want them to see that you don’t have to be related by blood, we don’t all have to look the same, but that deep down what we feel on the inside is all the same and I think we show that really well.
I love that you included a message to LGBT youth at the end of your Playbill bio. How was your experience coming out and coming up as a gay man?
I definitely got teased a lot in school. I grew up in a suburb of Baltimore that wasn’t the best place. I didn’t know any other kid who was gay and of course, I hadn’t told anybody yet, but I got picked on for being gay all the time. I just really hung on to my passion for singing and writing music and all that kind of stuff and that really got me through it. I think now, to be able to play this character, it’s just really cool. Kids come to see the show, which I hope they do. I hope they take that away – that you can be different and still be successful and popular.
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