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The Many Roads To Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert


Wade McCollum, plays "Mitzi"

Scott Willis, plays "Bernadette"

Bryan West, plays "Felicia"

BY IAN MYLCHREEST -- Now playing on the Strip: A musical set in Australia and starring ...  a touring bus. But wait, it gets weirder. The three stars of the show are two drag queens and a transvestite who are traveling to the outback to perform at a small casino in Alice Springs.

The touring drag queens of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” have some misadventures along the way and the reception from the locals is not always warm and friendly.

Thinking that it would be a tough audition but lots of potential actors would not show up for the interview, Scott Willis, who plays the transsexual Bernadette, went to extraordinary lengths to get a part in the show. He decided the only way he’d get an audition was to go in drag. So he did. But it took weeks to psyche himself into it. “I decided I should go in as a character,” he says – he thought it would work better.

“So I decided to go in as Miss Adelaide and sing ‘Take Back Your Mink’ with the full dance break, which is a strip tease,” he said. “And I knew I was going to be up against a lot of New York’s top drag queens so I needed to be able to be comfortable and sort of own the room.”

Bryan West, who plays Felicia, got in on ground floor. He saw an advance copy of the script and wanted to play the role Guy Pearce created on film because the musical had stayed true to the film. He was drawn to that role because the character was always “so brazen and so outrageous,” which he said is not how he is in real life. To get ready for the role, he just practiced a lot in high-heels.

Wade McCollum plays Mitzi but his audition was no easier than Scott’s. He had been auditioning earlier that same day for an abusive husband and logger. “So I’d kept my beard and I had a change of clothes in my backpack. And after that callback, which went very well, I ran to the bathroom and I shaved and I changed into a pair of tight black jeans and these like funny boots and ran over … did my second callback for Priscilla.”

When it went from a movie to a musical, many of the background songs were incorporated into the script, according to Willis. “What I find really uncanny and wonderful is that then when you put the lyrics on stage a lot of it’s really like poetry. And actually all of the songs in our show pretty much are anthems of optimism. And I think that’s why people go away from the show feeling so happy,” he said.

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