In the spring of 2011, two musicals opened on Broadway that were based on movies in which music, specifically old pop songs, had played a major part: Sister Act and Priscilla: Queen of the Desert (adapted from the 1994 film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert). As such, the producers of these shows had faced an important question ...
In the spring of 2011, two musicals opened on Broadway that were based on movies in which music, specifically old pop songs, had played a major part: Sister Act and Priscilla: Queen of the Desert (adapted from the 1994 film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert). As such, the producers of these shows had faced an important question that might be phrased as, "to jukebox or not to jukebox." That is, should the songs that were used in the film be performed on-stage, or should songwriters be brought in to write a new score? The producers made opposite decisions. Sister Act has a new score, while Priscilla sticks to the familiar pop songs. The evidence of the cast albums is that both producers made the wrong decision, but the concern here is with Priscilla. Set in Australia, it chronicles a road trip across the continent made by three lip-sync artists -- two transvestites and a transsexual -- in an RV they dub "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert." The music they lip-sync to in the movie and actually sing on-stage is mostly disco and dance-rock of the 1970s and '80s, "I Will Survive" and the like. What this means for the cast album is that a batch of songs mostly written for women and well-known in their hit recordings of 30 or 40 years ago (at least to those who remember them or have heard them on oldies radio) are sung by a bunch of men with Australian accents, emphasizing their revised gay meanings. So, for instance, the "put on my makeup" line in "I Say a Little Prayer" (this one dating back to the '60s) and all of "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" are given alternate interpretations. Sometimes, the performances seem like obvious parodies, such as the "bonus track" of "What's Love Got to Do with It," an exaggerated impersonation of Tina Turner. (None of these songs were in the movie, by the way, and neither was most of the score.) In the theater, all of this may work like gangbusters. On disc, most of the time, it sounds like karaoke night in Perth. ~ William Ruhlmann, Rovi
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