Theater Review: Gateway’s ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’

A scene from 'Priscilla' Photo: Jeff Bellante

What do drag queens, disco music and feather boas have in common? They’re front and center at the Patchogue Theater in the Gateway Playhouse’s production of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, a loud and proud musical with a touching story at its center.

The story follows drag queens Tick (stage name Mitzi), Adam (stage name Felicia) and a trans woman named Bernadette as they travel through the Australian Outback to perform at a remote casino owned by Tick’s estranged wife. She lives there with their 8-year-old son, whom Tick has never met. Tick, Adam and Bernadette buy a broken down bus, which they nickname Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

The show is packed with recognizable songs like “It’s Raining Men,” “Shake Your Groove Thing” and “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” to name a few. The songs are sometimes altered to fit the scene and at times they become medleys with the melodies working together to tell the story.

There is obvious tension between Bernadette, an older gal who has been in the entertainment business for many years, and the young, vivacious, sarcastic Felicia. Played by the adorably expressive Matthew Marks, Felicia is flamboyant and charming, easily executing one-liners that will have you in stitches.

Bernadette (William Selby) is a long-time friend of Tick’s who’s just lost her husband. Tick convinces her that the best way to get over her grief is to help him put on a show at the casino. Bernadette reluctantly agrees, and she and Felicia make hilarious digs at one another throughout the performance.

Tick’s (Jarrod Emick) storyline is where the heart of Priscilla is centered. Tick’s concerned that his young son won’t accept him because of his sexual orientation and his work as a drag queen.

The characters live in a time where their true selves are not widely accepted, especially in some of the small towns they comes across. They face condemnation and disgust, and some violence in a particularly rough spot. Through it all, Bernadette is the one to pull them back together, and the trio cling to one another for support during some especially low points in their journey. Their heartfelt rendition of “We Belong” was a bit of a tearjerker!

Past productions of Priscilla have been wildly acclaimed for the costume design and Gateway’s version is just as outrageous. The wardrobe is straight from the European tour of Priscilla, and includes the funkiest combinations of spandex, glitter, sequins and feathers! Expect to be amazed at the frequent costume changes and wildly imaginative headdresses and platform heels that these men can certainly strut their stuff in.

Gateway’s production of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is playing at the Patchogue Theater, 71 East Main Street, Patchogue, now through August 6. For more information go to or call 631-286-1133.

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