Houston Theater

Backstage Pass: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

A karaoke-inspired musical evokes mystery with its mind-bending drag.

By Peter Holley October 9, 2013

There are countless theories about the origins of the outrageous costumes in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the Tony Award–winning Broadway musical currently playing (until Saturday) at The Hobby Center. Here's mine:

It all started when the show's producers, desperate for competitive edge, located and subsequently abducted Boy George. Probably the sweet-natured, post-cocaine version, as he'd be easier to subdue and transport to an isolated compound, rendition style. At some point, probably after several days of forced karaoke performances to wear him down, the iconic British pop singer was strapped to a gurney and forced to ingest copious amounts of hallucinogenic material. Shortly after, it seems clear, he was unloaded in a Hobby Lobby parking lot, handed an American Express Black Card, and given explicit instructions to create a brand new wardrobe for a high-ranking dignitary from the Hunger Games series.

Do I have any evidence? No. I do not. But as far as I'm concerned, there can be no other reasonable explaination for the mind-boggling insanity that is the costume department on the set of Priscilla. 

The show — about a group of Australian drag queens on a life-altering road trip — features a flamboyant array of gaudy attire dripping in sequins, hot pink, exotic flowers and fruit. Among the wardrobe's many gems is a silver sequined jump suit, a dress covered in flip flops, and a creepy jacket covered in smiling Barbie faces (my personal favorite). With Halloween just around the corner, I figured I'd head backstage and check out the costumes in person. My guide was wardrobe supervisor Gillian Austin, who filled me in on the garb that graces the musical. Presented with my Boy George theory, she was noticeably mum. Exactly as I expected.

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