When PJ and I were planning our trip to England last month, the one show I definitely wanted to see was Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I love the movie, which is one of the great gay-themed films of all time, way ahead of its time. So, as soon as we landed in London and checked into our hotel we got our tickets for Priscilla for the second night we were in town.

I’ll state up front that this is going to be a mixed review. On the one hand, the show was entertaining. I especially liked the actors and was incredibly impressed with the stagecraft of the show, especially the quick costume changes. On the other hand, this show is little more than a collection of random songs — none of which are original — tied together by the barest of plots. As a result, we couldn’t care less about the characters or what happens in the show; we’re just waiting for the next big production number. I wish it had been more interesting on a narrative level.

The obvious point of comparison for this production is Billy Elliot, a great movie and show. Its creators took the plot of the movie, augmented it to make us care even more about the characters and time period, and then added original songs. It is an interesting show on every level, and it says something about gay issues.

Priscilla on the other hand is really just trying to make money. The creators clearly made a decision to use only old songs that audience members could sing along with–“You Were Always on My Mind,” What’s Love Got to Do with It,” “Hot Stuff,” and “I Will Survive” to name a few examples–as a way of filling the seats. It seems like this is a winning strategy, but the show could have drawn audience and been innovative and interesting. Why couldn’t they have taken a page from Billy Elliott and done more?

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