An upcoming Theatre Lawrence production will take audience members through a journey full of joy, humor, glitz and glamor in the midst of life hardships, showing what taking a chance on oneself can produce.
Based on a film-turned-Broadway musical, “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” follows the story of two drag queens and a recently widowed transgender woman, Tick/Mitzi, Adam/Felicia and Bernadette, who venture to the Australian outback while aboard an old party bus named Priscilla, according to a news release from the theatre.
The trio set out to reunite Tick with his 6-year-old son and run into people and situations along the way that transform their lives, Director Darren Canady said.
“Some of the biggest theme work in the show is about characters building family and building connection, and yes, maturing and changing, but that there’s this need for all of us to connect to people who in some cases share our identity and share our understanding of the world,” Canady said.
“These are three queer folks and they’re marginalized in many ways, so they build community together, but they also build community with people who are very different than them along the way.”
Audience members can also look forward to hearing renditions of classic pop songs, such as “It’s Raining Men” and “I Will Survive.”
Canady said he ultimately hopes audience members can participate in a “celebration with a purpose” through this production.
“In the face of being marginalized, in the face of needing to change and in some cases go through tragedy, in some cases going through fixing the wrongs of the past, we can do that with some joy, with some exultation,” Canady said.
“I think this is also a piece where each of these characters gets the opportunity to give in to some of their wildest desires and biggest, and in certain ways ridiculous, dreams.”
Because it was inspired by the 1994 film, “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” the storyline moves like a film even though it’s a stage show, Canady said. He praised the entire cast and company for nailing all the aspects of such a demanding production.
The cast includes Jared Martin, Louise ImMasche and Jaryl Perkins as the three leads in addition to Mario Bonilla, Marco Camacho, Oliver Denton, Amber Dickinson, Noah Dittmer, Brandon Eisman, Steven Fendt, Robbie Fowler, Frankie Haynes, Sonja Holmgren, Ruby Johnson, Amy Kelly, Secily Rees, Malachi Swedberg and Amanda Viehweg.
Alongside Canady’s direction is music direction by Mary Baker, design and technical direction by James Diemer, sound design by Bob Newton, costume design by Jane Pennington, and stage management by Kathi Killman.
“Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” will debut on Friday, Sept. 23. Opening weekend shows are Sept. 23, 24 and 25, and shows will also be live the following weekend, Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 29 through Oct. 2. Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows will begin at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday shows at 2:30 p.m. at Theatre Lawrence, 4660 Bauer Farm Drive. The performance on Friday, Sept. 30 will be audio described.
Audience members are encouraged to dress in drag during the Oct. 1 show for a special Drag Night, according to the news release. Canady said those who’d like to participate should embody the over-the-top, limitless nature of drag.
“I think the idea of drag now is a lot more elastic. There are characters in the show that talk about men and women’s clothes, but there’s also a character that identifies as trans. So it’s not just about that old narrow tradition. It’s the wig that’s super large and over the top, dresses made out of sandals,” Canady said. “… For anyone who might want to participate in Drag Night, that’s what I would lean into – it’s the notion of the ‘big show.’”
Tickets — $33 for adults; $29 for seniors and students; and $14 for children 14 or younger — are available for purchase at this link. The news release notes the production may not be suitable for all audiences due to some coarse language. Visit the Theatre Lawrence website for more information.