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Piecing together 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert'

The Fiddlehead Theatre Company's newest production shares a social message — and some sparkles.

Stephan Elliott’s 1994 “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” followed a trio of drag troupe members across Australia — winning an Oscar, a Tony, and the GLAAD award along the way. Now, the glitzy, sing-along-ready stage production has arrived for a 10-performance run at the Shubert Theater, by way of Fiddlehead Theatre Company. We chat with artistic directors Meg Fofonoff and Stacey Stephens, who discuss the story’s legacy, its importance in modern times and how they make their partnership work.

You guys just came off doing “Show Boat”; how did you transition into a show like “Priscilla”?

Stacey Stephens: As a company, we try to look for diverse pieces to present to the public, and this was the furthest we could go from “Show Boat.” [Laughs] First of all, it came up really quickly. We closed “Show Boat” in July, and it wasn’t until we crunched the days that we realized how quick the in-between is. To go from “Show Boat” with a cast of 50 with more than 300 costumes and a boat, to a cast of 50 and somehow more costumes, more wigs, more shoes…

Meg Fofonoff: More makeup!

Stephens: And a bigger set, and a bus.

Fofonoff: It’s been quite the journey, but it’s an amazing show. We’re a little tired right now, but it’s a Herculean effort.

How do you keep your working partnership in good shape?

Stephens: We’re like an old married couple. We fight, but we have a good time. I think respect is probably the biggest thing — we have enough respect [for one another] to disagree with each other and then still move ahead.

The story originated in the ’90s, but is there a reason why it was important for you to bring it to audiences today?

Stephens: We chose the show for its merits and themes. At the time [it was originally released], politically, the themes weren’t quite as strongly needed as they are right now — themes of acceptance and standing up for who you are and discrimination are all relevant today.

Fofonoff: The issues of identity and being comfortable about who you are or seeking acceptance from a loved one — all of the main characters are searching for that and struggling with becoming comfortable with who they are.

The costumes for the film and the stage show were award-winning — what’s the pressure to keep the bar high for your production?

Stephens: Yes, it won the Oscar and the Tony for costuming, so, yes… there’s pressure. [Laughs] I think for costumes, I wanted to pay homage to those designs and give the audience a little taste of what they expect, but I also didn’t want to just reproduce what they had done. I wanted to redesign the story through my eyes.


If you go:

Sept. 30 to Oct. 9
Citi Shubert Theatre
265 Tremont St., Boston
Starting at $53, citicenter.org

 
 
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