Sequins, mascara, feather boas fuel ‘Priscilla’

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By Bob Evans

[/media-credit] Francisco Javier Villegas, DaShawn Young, and Ron Megee at The Unicorn Theatre in “Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but friendships forged with heavy eye-shadow, clingy gowns, high heels, wigs, sequins, feather boas, and other paraphernalia help three drag queens on their travels and misadventures across Australia’s Out Back on their journey to Alice Springs.

“Priscilla Queen of the Desert” opened June 3 at Kansas City’s famous Unicorn Theatre to a packed house and the party began. What could be a better way to begin a show full of men in drag than “It’s Raining Men”? That’s the start and the party never stops. Well, only for a brief intermission and then it’s disco on through the final curtain call.

[/media-credit] DaShawn Young, Damron Rusell Armstrong, and Ron Megee at The Unicorn Theatre

Yes, ‘this party time at The Unicorn, so grab your best disco and colorful attire and come with attitude to see “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” before it vanishes into disco Nirvana.

Priscilla, a bus, makes her maiden trip to Kansas City via the creative directorial expertise of Unicorn’s Producing Artistic Director Cynthia Levin and her partner in crime (for this production) Missy Koonce. Audiences should expect a good time and quality show with those two collaborating. That combination alone should draw crowds to see what they have created; but, then add the three drag performers and theatre excellence propels the Broadway musical into an intimate disco party with Ron Megee, Francisco Javier Villegas, and Dashawn Young disco-ing, grinding, and sashaying through the score. The Unicorn rocks out with tuneful numbers that make the audience want to dance along.

[/media-credit] The Unicorn Theatre’s cast of “Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Megee scores a fun performance by way of his best timing and dry delivery. He’s a joy to watch. His character seems based on Bea Arthur’s best performances. Villegas makes a great drag diva. He looks like a young Chita Rivera and channels her energy for his performance. Never did he think he would be in drag during his career he said after opening night. He said he appreciates what women do to put on makeup, eye-shadow, mascara, and fake lashes. His part is touching and endearing. Young explodes on the main theater scene as Adam/Felicia, the youngest of the trio and the most glamorous. Young moves and grooves with the best. Audiences will swear he’s done drag before. He give a strong stage presence to his character and his voice validates him as a continual Musical-theater performer.

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Put on your boogie shoes or sparkly high heels to fully boogie down the Priscilla and the gang. Be ready when distinguished local actor, Damron Russel Armstrong dons eye-shadow, a wig, makeup and high heels to perform as a Tina Turner illusionist. Oh yeah! And laugh later as his nearly naked Aborigines tour guide appears in the Out Back. Crazy fun from start to finish.

Fans of Vanessa Severo know her ability to put her indelible stamp on all parts she undertakes will see her as a sexy vixen as she gyrates though her solo and performs nearly inexplicable stunts. Her part is small, short, but unforgettable–even in show about drag performers.

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The show focuses on the character of Tick/Mitzi who coerces his two friends, other drag queens, to accompany him to Alice Springs, Australia to perform in a casino. He/she, though has a hidden agenda behind his need to travel. But, to his two friends, it a chance of, adventure. “The Musical is a journey of self-discovery and the road trip of a lifetime that will have you dancing in the theatre,” The Unicorn said. “Based on the cult film, Priscilla is the heartwarming adventure of three friends ho hop aboard a battered old bus searching for love, family and the best of drag.”

The cast features Ron Megee as Bernadette, the aging drag queen; Francisco Javier Villegas as Tick/Mitzi; Dashawn Young as Adam/Felicia; Marc Liby as Bob; Damron Russel Armstrong as Miss Understanding/Jimmy; Coleen Grate, Shon Ruffin and Lexi Poindexter as the Divas; Vanessa Severo as Cynthia; Laura Jacobs s Marion; Thomas Delgado, Vincent Wagner and Molliann McCulley as the Ensemble and Aiden DeLaHunt-Villegas (Poncho’s real-life son) as Benj–in his Unicorn debut.

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Ready to boogie down? Songs include: “It’s Raining Men,” “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” “Venus,” “I Love the Nightlife,” “I Will Survive,” “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” “Shake Your Groove Thing,” “Girls just Wanna Have Fun.” “Hot Stuff,” and more. It’s party time in the Levin Stage. Bring it and party along.

What would a drag queen be without costumes, wigs, makeup, heels, and microphones? The production team out-performed themselves with “Priscilla.” Lights, sound, spotlights, props, costumes, sequins and feathers made the evening fantabulous. Cheers to all that worked to make the production a success.

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“Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical” derived from a book by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott. It is adapted from the motion picture of the same name. Co-directors Cynthia Levin and Missy Koonce collaborated with Angie Benson as musical director for the Unicorn production. Other members of the production team are: Tanya Brown, stage manager; Gary Mosby, scenic design; Alex Perry, lighting design; David Kiehl, sound design; Emily Swenson, Bret Engle, properties design; Gregory Chafin, technical director; Boni Newberry, dramaturg; Scott Stackhouse, dialect coach; Afton Earp, assistant stage manager; Hannah Rogg Taylor, production assistant; Taylor Sullivan, assistant light operator; Zach Harris, sound board operator; Courtney Dozier & Grant Davis, spotlight operators.

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“Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical” runs through June 25. Friday and Saturday shows begin at 8 p.m. Tues.-Thurs. shows begin at 7:30. The Unicorn believes theater is for everyone so they offer a special Pay What You Can on Tues., Wed., and Thurs. night performances. For ticket sales and more information contact The Unicorn Theatre website.

Tags: The Unicorn Theatre, “Priscilla Queen of the Destert-The Musical”, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kanas City Arts & Entertainment, Kansas City Musical Theater

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