When I change into the Gumby costume, it takes less than 30 seconds to change from being a full boy onstage to going back out in that costume, McCollum says.
McCollum has worn womens clothing onstage before, as the title character in Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Charlotte von Mahlsdorf in I Am My Own Wife. But for West, donning high heels and platform shoes to play Felicia is a first.
My calves are a lot stronger now. For the first three weeks, theyd cramp up, he says.
But he adds that creating a drag diva onstage has been empowering.
I was nervous about it at first. I wanted to honor it, and I didnt want it to come off as false. But now drag is like a suit of armor. You feel like a superhero, West says.
Jim Buff is a South Florida actor, female impersonator and costume designer who performs as Electra. He has seen both the movie and Broadway versions of Priscilla, and he thinks that the key characters serve the bigger story the musical tells.
I dont think the show celebrates drag queens so much as it celebrates life, he says. It shows that anyone whose life is not quite the norm still has the same issues as everyone else infidelity, issue over children, issues with their sexuality. The drag queen part is just a vehicle to tell the story through their eyes.
Priscillas score is largely made up of familiar disco-era hits, though West lip synchs an aria from La traviata√ while decked out in a glittering silver bodysuit as hes perched in the giant platform shoe atop the bus. As with the hit-parade score of Mamma Mia!, audiences sing, clap and groove along to Dont Leave Me This Way, I Love the Nightlife, I Will Survive, Boogie Wonderland well, you get the picture. The cupcake getups and jellyfish umbrellas appear as the actors sing MacArthur Park. Talk about leaving the cake out in the rain.
In the shows finale, which is (of course) as spectacular as everything that has come before it, every costume is built around something indigenous to Australia. When Bernadette, Felicia and Mitzi stand together in just the right way, they create the iconic Sydney Opera House. And, says Willis, the crowd goes wild, without fail.
Visually, its all so spectacular, adds McCollum. Those dresses at the end are remarkable pieces of theatrical engineering. Its almost condescending to call them costumes.