'Priscilla Queen of the Desert - The Musical' : Hail Broadway's new royalty

priscilla-broadway-jm.jpgStrap on your platform heels, fling the boa around your neck and wiggle into tight sequins. If you can't go fabulous, fine, just go. Join the party at Broadway's Palace Theatre.

If disco-dancing drag queen divas can't make you happy, well, really what can?

It is impossible to leave "Priscilla Queen of the Desert - The Musical" anything less than elated.

First, let's make one thing clear: As much fun as this is -- and Priscilla is so much fun it's a wonder it's not illegal -- this isn't for kids.

Everyone else: go! Don't bother with the homophobic nonsense. If more people bopped along to Miss Understanding singing "What's Love Got to Do With It?" inane hatreds ought to melt away.

From the moment the curtain goes up and three women, wearing glittery mermaid-cut gowns are lowered on wires -- think divas ex machina - and belt "It's Raining Men" we're off, not to return for two and a half hours.

priscilla-broadway-2-jm.jpgThe plot hews close to the 1994 movie. Tick ( Will Swenson) is a drag queen named Mitzi in Sydney. His wife, Marion ( Jessica Phillips), calls. They have remained friends, and she tells Tick that their 6-year-old son, Benji, wants to meet his dad. Marion owns a casino in Alice Springs, in the middle of Australia, and offers Tick and friends a gig.

Tick asks the transgendered Bernadette ( Tony Sheldon), who has just buried her young lover, Trumpet. The hilarious funeral scene (how often does that happen?) features the sublime Bernadette singing "Don't Leave Me This Way."

Bernadette, who is old school, can't stand the third of the trio, Adam ( Nick Adams). His stage name is Felicia Jollygoodfellow, and he puts the F in fabulous.

So three drag queens set off in an old gray bus named Priscilla to travel the Australian outback. What could go wrong?

In this production, nothing.

It is that rarest of experiences, the perfect musical. There's not an extra word in the script, the actors have magnificent chemistry, the score is a collection of disco classic hits, and every number is a showstopper. 

Though Tony predictions are risky business, Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner, who won an Oscar for the movie's costumes, are a (sequined) shoo-in. 

Incidentally, if there is a sequin and feather shortage, look on West 47th Street. These are not costumes; they're more like wearable gay pride parade floats but more outrageous. Not-yet-famous actors come on stage and people applaud - they're cheering the costumes.

When Priscilla is defaced with nasty graffiti and the guys paint it -- pink, of course -- the chorus dances on stage dressed as paintbrushes. Later, Bernadette finds love with the laid-back Bob ( C. David Johnson). They share a bottle of fizzy and a cake, then spend the night outside.

Tick finds them in the morning and says, "I've waited my entire life for this: 'Someone left the cake out in the rain,' " and naturally launches into "MacArthur Park," which includes that disco classic line. The chorus takes the stage as giant cupcakes with glittery parasols.

Besides spectacle, the show has heart, love stories, acceptance and friendships. Though producers aren't usually obvious in a production, it can be no surprise that Bette Midler is a producer.

The only complaint is that after this was such a hit in Australia, London and Toronto, why did it take so long to get to New York? Must have been the heels.

Photo/Video credit: Joan Marcus