Priscilla, Queen of the Desert This new jukebox musical, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, is as gay as they come. Normally this would be a good thing, except this psychedelic valentine, all bells, whistles and razzle-dazzle, has the musty smell of a world gone by. This sweaty and muscular musical, based on the 1994 cult Australian movie, smothers you under tons of sequins, Mylar and bitchy bons mots that I thought went out in the '80s. This is the gay world for blue hairs: slightly naughty but oh-so-sweet, uplifting and terribly non-threatening. We're just like you, the musical proclaims in nonstop numbers that quickly resemble each succeeding one, only we like to wear towering platform shoes and fantastic wigs in the shape of ribbon candy or pom poms or cupcakes. For a musical that hit Broadway in 2011, it's so old-fashioned and eager to please that you expect Noël Coward to materialize and sing a ditty. Jerry Herman's La Cages aux Folles is subversive by comparison. Stereotypes abound. To be fair, they're equally scattered, so everybody gets skewered: fat, horny women; German tourists; Outback rednecks; Asian mail-order brides. Unfortunately, so do the leading gay characters. Tick (Wade McCollum), a.k.a. Mitzi, his drag name, sets the glitzy disco ball spinning because his wife (Christy Faber), who lives in the wilds of Alice Springs with their son (Shane Davis; Will B. in other performances), asks him to come home and perform his drag act in her casino, which has lost its musical act. Tick hasn't seen his son in years, having moved to the big city to find himself. Tick gathers two of his friends to accompany him: outlandish Adam, a.k.a. Felicia (Bryan West), and post-op transsexual Bernadette (Scott Willis). Felicia is out there, a buff fireplug of swish whose patron saint is Madonna. Bernadette is from the "old" school of lip-syncing drag, all about attitude and glamour, bewigged and dressed like Lauren Bacall. Their waspish put-downs of each other are half the show. Willis is reason enough to see this pre-Stonewall-like dinosaur; his Bernadette is the only real person onstage, wise and motherly, but with a mouth like Mae West. Willis pulls this musical together in wondrous, sly ways. He doesn't need outrageous platform shoes, lifting up the show on his/her very sensible high heels. We root for this showbiz drag-show veteran who's still got plenty of snap. Creators Stephen Elliott (writer of the movie screenplay) and Allan Scott must have recognized the been-there-done-that nature of the material, for they, along with director Simon Phillips and choreographer Ross Coleman, overflow the Hobby Center with dazzling eye candy: the strapping chorus boys; that electronic bus; production numbers in homage to Busby Berkeley and The Sonny and Cher Show; the three divas (Emily Afton, Bre Jackson and Brit West), who drop in from on high to amplify and supplement the musical numbers; and those outrageous, award-winning costumes by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner, which are an entire show by themselves. Like its music, Priscilla seems from decades past. Supposedly out and proud, these three guys haven't left the closet very far behind. Shocking pink, that charismatic bus of theirs has gone a lot farther. Through October 12. Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby, 713-558-8887. — DLG

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