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Curiocity: Q&A With Edina Actor In ‘Priscilla Queen Of The Desert’

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(credit: Joan Marcus)

(credit: Joan Marcus)

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Sara Pelissero joined the WCCO web team in August of 2009. You can...
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Drag queens, the Australian outback, sequins, head dresses and oh yes, drag queens.

This, in a nutshell, describes the fabulous musical, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, which heads to the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis Jan. 8-13.

With a ridiculous amount of costumes and no doubt, some perfectly placed double-sided tape, this is a show you won’t want to miss. But don’t just take our word for it, read about the show from one of our own.

David Koch, a graduate of Edina High School, is part of this stellar touring cast and tells us, it’s hard work to look this good — both on stage and behind the scenes.

So let’s start off by learning a little more about this show. Tell us what Priscilla Queen of the Desert is all about.

Basically, Priscilla is about three fabulous drag queens taking a journey across the Australian outback. The show is filled with over 500 costumes and lots of classic dance hits. But I think the show is really about differences between people, acceptance of our shared differences and the love of our families and friends.

(credit: Hennepin Theatre Trust)

(credit: Hennepin Theatre Trust)

I see there is quite a bit of sequins and glitter in this show. And its won awards for those intricate designs. Tell us more about the costumes. How many do you change into?

The costumes in this show are nothing short of spectacular. Our tech rehearsals have been like musical theater show and tell. Someone puts on their next costume and yells, “look what I’m wearing!” I have 11 costumes in Priscilla from a cowboy, a miner and an Indian, to a showgirl with a 5-foot headdress. The part of Bernadette, which I cover, has 15 costumes and 11 pairs of shoes. So, the costume changes are just as important as what you do on stage.

How long did it take you to get used to dancing in those costumes – and in those heels, specifically?

Well I have had to negotiate a dress that is tight at the knees with a 5-foot hoop at the bottom, and also a 6-foot Indian headdress that doesn’t want to stay on my head. Not to mention, the three-and-a-half-inch heels, which were not meant for a 12W men’s foot. I have a new found appreciation for women dancing in heels!

I hear you were raised in Edina and went to Edina High School? Do you still have family here? What is it like coming back home to perform?

Yes, I was raised in Edina. I love coming back to the Twin Cities. I love showing off my hometown to the people in the shows I’m in. My parents still live in the same house and I have been back to visit Edina High School. They have really wonderful theater department now, which I am a little envious of. We didn’t have much theater when I went to school, but we did have a really great choir program. I was in “The Music Man” when I was in ninth grade and loved it. Because of the hard work of two teachers, Bob Peterson and Tom Amundson, I have a career in theater. I’m not sure I ever told them that. So if they read this, thank you!

You also performed at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre.

I got my Equity card doing “West Side Story” after a couple of years doing community theater in the Twin Cities. I did five shows at the old Chimera Theater in St. Paul, and several productions at the Minnesota Opera. It was a great place to learn with lots of opportunities.

(credit: Joan Marcus)

(credit: Joan Marcus)

The music in this show includes a lot of dance favorites, like “I Will Survive” and “It’s Raining Men.” What is it like performing these iconic hits – and what else can you tell us about the music in this show?

At the top of the show, it is really exciting backstage. We are all wearing these glorious costumes and ready to enter for the first song, “It’s Raining Men” sung by the three “Divas.” First of all, these three women have such amazing voices, it’s hard not to get excited. Second, these are songs I grew up with. I’d say I used to sing them, but I really just sang the choruses. It’s kind of funny how many words I didn’t know or would make up. All of the songs are so infectious you can’t help but love to sing them. Anyone who enjoyed the fabulous disco hits of the 70s is bound to smile throughout this fun show.

You’ve performed in several shows on Broadway, and a number of touring productions. What has been a few highlights of your career thus far?

One of the biggest highlights of my career would be the pre-Broadway production of “Kiss Of The Spider Woman.” It was my first big job in New York. It was the only show produced by New Musicals, which was to be a place to develop new shows before bringing them to Broadway and the critics. The musical was by Kander and Ebb (Chicago, Cabaret), directed by Hal Prince and choreographed by Susan Strohman. It was an idyllic summer. Everyone was relaxed and playful without the pressure of the looming critics. Also Fred Ebb was an amazing storyteller. For me, it was before the “Business” of Show Business became a reality.

Another highlight would have to be playing the director Roger Debris in “The Producers.” To be able to make people laugh is an amazing feeling. At one performance, a man actually fell out of his seat. You’ve gotta love that.

What’s one thing that people should know about this show – that they might not know?

I think this show is a different kind of story about one individual’s search for acceptance. Most stories are about a child looking for acceptance from their parent. “Priscilla” is about a parent worried about acceptance from a child. And how being true to one’s self is really the way to a happy life. Beneath the sequins, the high heels and the colorful costumes, “Priscilla” has a beautiful story that will touch your heart.

“Priscilla Queen of the Desert” runs from Jan. 8-13 at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. Tickets are $39 to $99 and are currently available. For tickets, performances and more information, click here.

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