'Priscilla' pops in 

click to enlarge Wade McCollum, center, dances with cupcakes and Priscilla, the titular bus, in "Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical," coming to the Orpheum Theatre. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Wade McCollum, center, dances with cupcakes and Priscilla, the titular bus, in "Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical," coming to the Orpheum Theatre.

Two drag queens and a transsexual from Down Under embark on the mother of all road trips, tempt fate and manage not to break a heel — sounds like musical theater at its grooviest.

"It's definitely a lot of fun," says Wade McCollum, one of the three leads in "Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical," the Broadway hit opening a special two-week engagement at the Orpheum Theatre in The City on Wednesday.

"It's really a combo package," McCollum says of the show's success. "It's entertaining, partly because of the music, but the combination of humor, spectacle and the unexpected layer of humanity that people can relate to, all adds up."

Adapted from the 1994 film "The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert," the stage musical was penned by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott, choreographed by Ross Coleman and directed by Simon Phillips. It became the most successful Australian musical of all time after it premiered on stage in Sydney in 2006.

It went to Broadway and took home the 2011 Tony Award for best costume design.

Much like the film, the stage version is a comedy of errors filled with a plethora of quirky characters, outrageous encounters and sequins and sparkles.

Aussie drag queen Mitzi/Tick (McCollum) is beckoned from Sydney by his wife, who is desperately searching for an entertainment act in a remote resort town.

Mitzi lures fellow drag pal Adam/Felicia (Bryan West) and Bernadette (Scott Willis), a transsexual, into the mix and the troika head out on a lavender bus.

Of course, life lessons— related to homophobia and self-acceptance — are learned along the way, and the story is accompanied by iconic pop songs including "Finally," "It's Raining Men" and "I Will Survive."

For McCollum, stepping into Mitzi/Tick's shoes has been illuminating.

"What I love most is his unexpected depth," he says of the character. "As an actor, an artist, a craftsman, I adore his layers of complexity.

"He's sort of closeted from all angles — hiding that fact that he has a wife and son from his drag community, and trying to keep his professional life from his family life," he adds. "That kind of compartmentalization makes him a very interesting character. I also really love the gender spectrum he gets to explore because as a professional gender illusionist, he sort of runs the gamut of male to female and everything in between. And as an actor, it's really fun to explore these layers."

IF YOU GO

Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical

Presented by SHN

Where: Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., S.F.

When: Opens Wednesday, 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, plus 1and 6:30 p.m. Aug. 25 and 2 p.m. Aug. 28 and Aug. 30; closes Aug. 30

Tickets: $45 to $210

Contact: (888) 746-1799, www.shnsf.com

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Greg Archer

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