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STEFANI DIAS: Hip, hip, hooray! A 'Desert' holiday at Stars

They may sing about how "It's Raining Men," but for Stars' production of "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical," it's a more disco-fied deluge: glitter.

This show is so shiny, so sparkly, that director Sheryl Cleveland said theatergoers will experience "a whole new 'Hello Dolly" — the next show in the season — because the theater's "never had this much glitter in its life."

But let's leave the matchmaker to next month and focus on the musical extravaganza through the Australian Outback opening Friday. The show, based on the 1994 film starring Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce, follows the same story: Tick (played by Brock Christian), who performs as the drag queen Mitzi, gets a call from his wife, Marion (Leslie Thompson), who hopes he'll bring his act to her business in Alice Springs — and reconnect with his son, Benji (Braxton Briscoe). Tick agrees, enlisting fellow queen Felicia (Zachary Gonzalez) and Bernadette (Kevin McDonald), a transsexual who recently lost her husband, to fill out the act, and the trio hit the road in a "budget Barbie camper" they nickname "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert."

The show also features Shay Brandon Burke as Bob, a mechanic who revs up the bus (and Bernadette) on the road and Lori LaMacchia in a dual role.

"She’s playing basically my comedy," Cleveland said. LaMacchia plays both Shirley, a gruff, mulleted bartender, and Cynthia, Bob's mail-order bride, who has her own unique talent involving pingpong balls.

"It's not for the faint of heart."

Jill Burdick, Caley Mayhall and Bethany Rowlee play The Divas, who perform backup in big numbers such as "I Say a Little Prayer," "Shake Your Groove Thing" and "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."

Along with catchy hits from the 1980s, another hallmark of "Priscilla" is the elaborate costumes, many of which involve quick changes within the course of a scene as the trio rehearses and performs on the road.

Madeline Engel, who, along with mother Laura, has been assisting with costumes for Stars shows, took the lead for this production, creating more than 150 looks with the aid of her mother and boyfriend.

"She built this entire show," Cleveland said. "We really couldn't even rent costumes because they just weren't available."

Engel, who has been sewing her own costumes and cosplay for four years, said she was excited to take on such a challenging project for her first official costuming gig.

"What I love about costume design is the creative process of taking a character and showing who they are to the audience through their clothing," she wrote in an email. "The moment an actor really starts to 'feel' his character in his costume is magic to watch and being able to contribute to that is a gift."

She said she's especially proud of the floor show costumes. 

"They're so fantastic and elegant with bright jewel tones and ruffles, and I think they show off the good qualities of each actor very well."

One of the most complicated looks was the flip-flop dress Tick wears. The base is a black, thin-strapped dress covered in neon pink and yellow casual footwear.

"It's so iconic to the show and was such a fun and challenging piece to create."

Although there's a lot going on in this show — the glitter, the bus on stage, outrageous costumes — the message is completely down to earth, Cleveland said.

"It's a story of a man connecting with his son. ... There's a lesson that children can teach us about judgment and just loving people for being themselves. Right now it's a really good message."

The three are on a journey to "really find friendship and acceptance and love — a love of someone else or love of self. Glitter and the drag queens are just the backdrop."

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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