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Theater review: 'Priscilla Queen of the Desert' -- 2 stars

Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Priscilla Queen of the Desert Credit: Handout

Priscilla Queen of the Desert

2 stars

“Priscilla Queen of the Desert” is not so much a normal musical but rather a loud, oversized karaoke party and midnight drag show. You really want to have fun, but it is so aggressively campy that it soon becomes irritating and too much to stomach.

Adapted from the cult Australian film “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” it follows a trio of gay drag queens traveling across the Australian outback in a broken-down bus.

Tick (Will Swenson), who is still technically married, has promised to perform at his estranged wife’s hotel. He is joined by Bernadette (Tony Sheldon), a much older transsexual recovering from his lover’s recent death, and Adam (Nick Adams), a younger, muscular and dangerously impulsive performer.

As in the film, the stage musical features recognizable dance-floor hits such as “It’s Raining Men,” “Like a Virgin,” “I Will Survive,” “I Love the Night Life” and even “MacArthur Park.” But the lack of an original score makes the stage show come across as silly and superficial.

The constant lip-synching, in which females either offstage or hanging from above sing while the men mime the lyrics with exaggerated gestures, is extremely distracting.

Glitzy production values have certainly not been ignored — even to the point of being too garish. A giant bus spins across the stage, and the cast wears outlandish and thoroughly elaborate costumes and headdresses. The men are dressed not only as women but also paintbrushes, cupcakes and the Village People.

Sheldon, who has played Bernadette in prior productions of the musical, gives the most deeply felt performance, while Swenson and Adams are to be commended for their relentless physical stamina.

If you go: “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” plays an open run at the Palace Theatre. 1554 Broadway, 877-250-2929,

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