Desert fun, in drag

It’s show­time: Bry­an West takes the dual role of Adam and Fe­li­cia in this ‘dance-in-the-aisle’ kind of show. “Priscilla” fea­tures more than 20 songs.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert, the most suc­cess­ful Aus­trali­an mu­sic­al of all time, is mak­ing its Phil­adelphia premiere now through March 3 at the Academy of Mu­sic.

Ad­ap­ted from the 1994 Academy Award-win­ning film, the pro­duc­tion fol­lows a trio of friends search­ing for love and friend­ship on a road trip as they travel across the Aus­trali­an Out­back to a re­mote town to per­form a drag queen show. Priscilla fea­tures a hit parade of more than 20 dance floor fa­vor­ites in­clud­ing It’s Rain­ing Men, I Will Sur­vive, Say a Little Pray­er and oth­ers.

One of those “friends” is played by Bry­an West, who takes the dual role of Adam and Fe­li­cia, and joins the tour dir­ect from the Broad­way run after hav­ing amassed a num­ber of oth­er Broad­way cred­its. 

“I guess you could say I’ve been pretty lucky, since I al­ways wanted to be a per­former and here I am today do­ing just what I al­ways wanted to do,” West said. “Grow­ing up, mu­sic was al­ways around me all the time. My par­ents had a big col­lec­tion of mu­sic. And whenev­er I sang at fam­ily func­tions, which was as of­ten as I could, I got lots of at­ten­tion, and what kid doesn’t like all that at­ten­tion? So, for me, I think that’s how it all star­ted.” 

Liv­ing in Bal­timore, West went from per­form­ing at fam­ily func­tions, to en­rolling in the High School for the Per­form­ing Arts, where he said he got his first form­al train­ing. “And by the time I was 16, I really got the bug when I got a sum­mer job in Nashville singing in a show at Opry­land and open­ing for Tammy Wynette.” 

Urged by his par­ents to get more edu­ca­tion, West re­turned to Nashville after his high school gradu­ation to en­roll at Bel­mont Uni­versity. But when a chance to tour Europe with a pop band came along, every­one, in­clud­ing his teach­ers, urged him to take the job. 

“You know,” he said,  “I think I’ve been pretty lucky my whole life. I nev­er had any hor­rible jobs. I’ve been work­ing in show busi­ness al­most non-stop from the be­gin­ning. When I got back from Europe, I moved to Los Angeles where I heard they were hold­ing au­di­tions for Hair­spray. I tried out and got a part, which was my first Broad­way show.” 

There have been oth­ers, and now Priscilla, which, West in­sists, is one of the most fun shows to do, both for the per­formers and the audi­ence, and one of his fa­vor­ites. This is the story of two drag queens and a trans­sexu­al who con­tract to per­form the drag show at a re­mote re­sort.  The three friends en­counter any num­ber of strange char­ac­ters, as well as ho­mo­pho­bia, while widen­ing their com­fort zones and find­ing new ho­ri­zons. West ad­mits that he and oth­er cast mem­bers were a little nervous while per­form­ing the show in small towns throughout the Mid­w­est, but everything has worked out well. 

“In smal­ler towns, it takes the audi­ence a little longer to warm up, but even­tu­ally, they get there,” West ex­plained. “At first, they’re not sure what they’ve got­ten them­selves in­to, but soon they get in­to the show just like oth­er audi­ences in the big­ger cit­ies. They can’t help them­selves. This is a dance-in-the-aisle kind of show without ques­tion.” 

Pre­pared to stay on the road tour­ing for the next year, West is happy abut his cur­rent role and looks for­ward to con­tinu­ing in this busi­ness. His ad­vice to oth­er young tal­ents would be to be per­sist­ent and stay fo­cused. 

“I would also tell them to get as much train­ing as they can and de­vel­op a very thick skin, since they’ll prob­ably get turned down 95 per­cent of the time when try­ing out for roles. But if you love this and can’t see your­self do­ing any­thing else, then just stick with it.” 

For times and tick­et in­form­a­tion, call 215-731-3333. ••

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