“Priscilla Queen of the Desert” will rock your socks off. Hong Kong audiences are famously reserved. At the Lyric Theatre matinee we saw they wouldn’t stay in their seats. All most all of the audience were on their feet swaying to the rollicking music and clapping to the rhythm.
Priscilla is more than a comic musical. The 1994 film helped introduce LGBT themes to mainstream audiences. The effect has been overwhelmingly positive. Most people in the Hong Kong audience were empathetic and supportive. Priscilla is a celebration of diversity and it works.
But if you are prudish, don’t go. In fact, don’t read further.
Bernadette, the transgender character played by David Dennis, comes out with the most outrageous comments: “Now listen here, you mullet. Why don’t you light your tampon and blow your box apart? Because it’s the only bang you’re ever gonna get, sweetheart.”
She also produces the quote that has been adopted as the musical’s copy-line: “That’s just what this country needs: a cock in a frock on a rock.”
Priscilla has been brought to us by Hong Kong’s own Lunchbox Productions. The story follows two drag queens and a transgender woman as they journey from Sydney through the outback to Alice Springs. Some scenes where they run into homophobic locals are disturbing, even offensive. Priscilla the bus is daubed with an obscene message. Rape is threatened in an ugly scene. These episodes are mercifully brief, not representative of the show overall and should be cut out.
The scenery is spectacular and ever changing, the dancing frenetic. Only the tone deaf can sit still when the most melodic and rhythmic numbers are rattling the Lyric Theatre’s walls:
Humidity is rising
Barometer’s getting low
According to our sources
The street’s the place to go
Cause tonight for the first time
Just about half past ten
For the first time in history
It’s gonna start raining men
It’s raining men
It’s raining men