BY JULIANNE CUBA | All aboard the Priscilla!
The famed 1994 Australian film about drag queens trekking across the Outback is getting a Brooklyn-style makeover this summer. The musical “Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” opening at the Old Stone House in Park Slope on July 6, changes the setting from ‘90s Australia to America today, but the difficult journey the characters take — confronting homophobic locals in small desert towns — remains the same as the queens traverse the bleeding-red Southwest, said the show’s director.
“We are going to take it from Brooklyn across the country all the way to Arizona, and then we are going to have our Brooklyn drag queens have to face Trump voters in middle America and find acceptance and win people over,” said Park Sloper John McEneny, who is also a co-founder of Piper Theatre Productions, which is staging the show.
McEneny and his fellow company members got the idea for the show late on Election Night 2016, when it became clear that Trump would become president. In the midst of considerable gloom, they couldn’t think of anything better than “Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” with its boundary-pushing, positive portrayal of gay and transgender people, to give people something to smile about, he said.
“We decided to do this play after the election,” McEneny explained. “I think people need to have something really fun and exciting and positive, for people really being themselves and true to themselves facing opposition. I feel like people need something fun, I think it’s really important right now that people are coming together and going to theater and laughing.”
The outdoor show, which will feature a live six-person band, will be a little grittier than the original, the show’s director said. The costumes will look like they were made by the drag queens themselves, out of random materials like plastic lobsters, and the beautiful bus named Priscilla, which gets the queens to their destination, will reflect its scrappy Midwestern origins.
“Our whole set is an actual bus purchased from a religious commune in Ohio,” McEneny said. “It’s quite the bus — all the seats have been gutted, it’s a little worse for wear, but I think it’s going to look like three drag queens have driven this across country. We’re painting it a billion beautiful colors, and it’s going to be parked in residence. It’s going to be absolutely beautiful.”
PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT | Old Stone House, 336 Third St., btwn. Fourth & Fifth Aves., Park Slope | Jul. 6-22: Thu.-Sat. at 8 p.m. | Free | pipertheatre.org