Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, the stage musical version of the 1994 Australian film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, has been toned down for its Broadway premiere later this week.
Currently in previews, the musical is set to open at Broadway’s Palace Theatre on March 20. Aussies reading this article would expect, but not necessarily agree with, changes in the book to accommodate American audiences unfamiliar with Australian humour, place names and references in the show. Like it or not, this has happened. Gone are references to Kylie Minogue and the like. In are references to Madonna, instead. Bette Midler is just one of the people advising those connected with the show.
But it appears tourists from Middle America and families have been over-accommodated for all in the name of increasing ticket sales. Publicity for the show is only one area that has been heavily sanitised. Advertising billboards of Tick/Mitzi, Adam/Felicia and Bernadette, the show’s two drag queens and transsexual, are apparently too risque for Broadway audiences. Instead, the three female divas, supporting roles at best, are pictured. One would think deliberately not promoting the musical’s main characters would be a huge risk? Not to mention showing off those fabulous costumes, of which there are over 500 in the musical. Down Under, advertising the three main characters in their fabulous costumes and high heels was a promoter’s dream. It was THE image of the show.
Reports in The New York Times this week indicate numerous changes to the show itself, resulting in a more homely, less in-your-face version of the musical. No one wants to lose a buck or end a show quickly in the cut throat world of Broadway, but if you risk losing the essence and integrity of the original production by sanitising it, safe is not necessarily better. Will this be yet another example of Broadway playing conservative and placing economics ahead of art? This is Broadway, yeah? It’s about the show, right? Nope, it’s all about the money. Pity.