Tymon and I see a lot of shows that we wouldn't ordinarily see since we volunteer usher at the Paramount Theater in Seattle. We get a list halfway through the month for all the shows that come the following month and we sign up for the show(s) we want to work. I love musicals and when I looked up a blurb on Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, I imagined something totally different than what we saw. And I mean as nearly polar opposite as you can get. As in, for some reason now unclear, I was thinking the story was about a black lady named Priscilla who lived in the desert. Yeah. No.
So it was really about three drag queens and their road trip across Australia to work comeback tour at a seemingly random casino. Early on, we find out that the leading man is actually married and has a son he hasn't seen in 6 years but his companions don't know it. His wife, owner of the casino, asks him to come perform and to meet his son who is now 8 and asking about him. He recruits some friends to go with him but they don't realize the real reason behind the tour.
The music was energizing, performed by a live orchestra, and they sang several dance favorites...including my fallback karaoke song, I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor. So many of these songs have a greater depth of meaning when taken out of their original heterosexual context and moved into one with LGBT meanings. The costuming was bright and well done. This clip gives you some of the more outrageous ones in an I Will Survive ensemble.
It's sad to think about the loneliness that people within the LGBT community feel. Not only are some rejected by their families and sometimes entire communities, but even among their friends some find it difficult to come out about their complicated relationships. The main character in this production got the emphatic question, "You're married?! To a woman?" It's really hard to fathom the pressure that comes from not feeling comfortable with being yourself.
What really affected me, in a way that I have never come across before, was how off balance I feel when I don't know the sex of a person. Seriously. This is beyond the hilarity of SNL's Pat sketches. It's an innate need to know piece of information.
During intermission, Tymon was looking at the program (which I tend to only hand out and rarely read) and I had him search for names. I wanted to know if the entire cast was male. It's not. There are 6 women out of maybe 20 members. That number seems to be just about opposite with most musicals with a female dance ensemble. The photo below I believe is all-male.
A few of the patrons were dressed up, too. As a group of them formed near us, we found ourselves trying to determine whether they were male or female. The one with the shortest skirt had to be in drag. Girls just don't ever wear dresses that short. "They do if you've ever worked a rave," said the House Manager. Oh.
There is a scene where a bunch of guys are beating up one of the drag queens. The night before last, one of the gay patrons ended up leaving the theatre as his mind brought him back to the terrible time on Capitol Hill when that was him on the receiving end of such abuse. That's really sad to me. No one should be persecuted because they live a life different than you. I think it's easy to paint people who are different as bad. But what many of us don't realize is that our lifestyles are just as different for others.
On a few occasions, Tymon and I have left the Paramount when we accidentally end up in a show that we didn't anticipate the language or subject matter of. Each time, we're grateful we didn't pay for our tickets and thus feel extra motivation to stay and get our money's worth. Even if we did pay for a ticket, sometimes we don't stay, like the time we left an REM concert after the lead singer dropped 3 f* bombs within the first minute. Strong language assaults my soul. I don't like to hear it casually tossed around. Or in the case of REM, they were insulting an audience who came to hear them perform. That's just plain disrespectful.
There are a few instances of strong language in the musical. The first one was maybe in the middle or toward the end of the first act. The others came in the second act with the gay bashing scene and the obscenity written on their bus. I'm still trying to figure out why those instances didn't assault me like the same language has done at other times in my life. Tymon agreed. It was weird. I wouldn't say I'm desensitized at all. I think it was more contextual than some filthy swearing tirades in other media. But the absence of me wanting to leave last night when these f* bombs were dropped surprised me all the same.
I will also admit that some of the humor was totally lost on me. The audience really laughed hard a few times where I was just scratching my head. So, yeah. The show was probably a bit more wholesome for me not understanding everything.