Saturday, March 19, 2011

LOGOS: Priscilla Queen of the Desert

It turns out that I'm glad I didn't post this blog when I originally intended to; I normally post these on or near the first preview of a show.  But other ideas and other more (at the time) pertinent news needed to be blogged about and I just kept pushing it back.  Now, with the Broadway opening tomorrow, I suppose I'd better get on with it.

So why am I still glad I waited?  Because an article in The New York Times prompted me to change much of what I had written.  It answered a few questions I posed, and, unfortunately, confirmed something I suspected all along.  That most interesting article can be found HERE, and I direct your attention to the paragraph/quote about photographing transvestites.  Then, of course, the rest of the article reveals the motives behind the advertising of Priscilla Queen of the Desert.  Interestingly, the article did not change my overall impression of the logo or advertising for the show.  No, I still think it is the worst of any show this season.  By far.  And to add insult to injury, I am now kind of pissed at the producers for hiding behind a "point of view" shift when they actually have "dumbed down" or dare I say, "dragged down" the script to pander to what they think American audiences can handle (I got through Billy Elliot just fine without a glossary of terms or a significant script change.  Same with Blood Brothers, Oliver! and both M. Butterfly and Miss Saigon.  And all were at least popular, if not critical hits here in the US).  And as far as the "gentler approach" to the drag queens, etc. all I can say is this: Bette Midler is a producer!  Hello? She's so gay friendly, she's practically a gay man herself.  For shame, Bette.  For shame.  You of all people.  I feel so betrayed.  Really.

Of course, the logo and advertising, is an insult period.  Has any show, so chock full of pretty stuff: scenery, flashy costumes, lights, sets and HOT cast members ever had so atrociously ugly an ad campaign.  If a gay guy designed this, TURN IN YOUR GAY CARD!

Ugly comes to Times Square

I suppose I should be happy that at least a small part of the ad/logo still hearkens back to the film upon which the show is based.  Let me add right here that aside from the movie soundtrack - purchased for a clean copy of "Shake Your Groove Thing" and nothing more - is all I know for sure about the film.  I have never seen a single frame of it.  By now, of course, I know that "Priscilla" is a bus, and she carries three guys - one who lives as a woman and two drag queens - across the outback of Australia in search of meaning, friendship and happiness.  The Aussie To Wong Foo I'm guessing.  Anyway,  that image is a part of the Playbill cover and almost an after thought on the poster and giant billboard over the Palace Theatre.  And it is all of the logo that really works.

This works all by itself!

And the London version works even better!
The tagline really sells the show - keywords:
"Journey," "Heart," and "Fabulous."

The bus, in a barren terrain, travels as the sunsets, with waving queen on a giant show waving to the world at large, with wisps of magical beams, twirly things and "magical rainbow colored stardust" trailing behind.  That, in short, captures the entire essence of the musical.  It tells us the basic story, its rainbow suggests gay themes and the glittery fun stuff suggests just that: FUN STUFF.  Period.  End of discussion.  They should have stooped there.  (Oh, and the pink neonish title works, too, with "Priscilla" in all caps in lettering not unlike that which used to adorn buses worldwide before the advent of LED signs.  SEE TOP OF BLOG.)  Slap on "the Musical" and we are good to go.  BUT NO!

In a heinous effort to "get them in the seats first, educate them after they are tricked into the seats," the producers have chosen to highlight the 3 Divas who apparently narrate and sing suspended above the set.  (And please, no offense at all to the three ladies in question, who are, I am sure, multi-talented and worth seeing all by themselves.)  The problem is problems are: they are arranged like a girl group of back up singers (read: ugh! another show about a band... is this competing with Jersey Boys or Baby It's You), which is really unfair to all three shows; problem two: that gold sequined background with the silver outfits and hot pink/reddish is-it-supposed-to-be-hair clashes to the point that it is just ugly (read: it'll catch your eye in Times Square... and then you turn away, eyes hurting); and problem three: the real ad for the show is up at the top, looking like one of the divas is holding a postcard, Priscilla and her magic trail of color barely visible.


You know, I can totally buy the argument that drag queens are difficult to photograph. I have yet to see and ad or logo for La Cage where ZaZa actually could pass as a woman (no offense George, Gary, Douglas and Harvey).  But come on... the costumes and stuff for this show are so over the top, which chicken out with the divas, arguably the plainest people on the stage?  How about the cupcakes? or those bizarre pants/shoes things with the hedge like head dresses.  They are eye-catching, still tell the story, and are so hilarious you don't care that they are drag queens.

I can't blame the producers for wanting to attract the broadest audience possible.  That is just good business.  But I'd have spent my ad money trying to show the fun aspects of the show, the tie-in to the film, and all the ways that this ISN'T just another La Cage aux Folles.  And, let's be honest, about two things.  One, the initial audience is going to be primarily gay guys no matter how much you advertise otherwise.  And two, if the show is really as great as I've heard it is, the straight audience will come, anyway.  The original La Cage couldn't have played the Palace all those years on gay patrons alone.  If you ask me, the one thing an audience will feel before they even buy a ticket is that they are being pandered to or in someway being duped.  You might get the straight guy in the seat, but nothing will make any guy get up and leave like being lied to and cheated. 

And that has zero to do with sexual orientation and acceptance and all to do with honesty.

Grade: D+ (F overall, A for the bus part of the logo and the lettering)

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1 comment:

  1. To Wong Foo is a great movie. Seeing Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, and John Leguizamo in drag was a suprise when searching the channels for something to watch years ago as a child. I had no idea Pricilla Queen of the Desert was based on this film. I have seen a few pictures and read bits and pieces about it, but that information didn't help me make the connection. After seeing the billboard, I'm wondering as well, why it doesn't resemble that of those in Australia and London. Honestly, I feel the more siimplistic billboard would attract more people. I know I would have a very hard time getting my male friends to see this show. I also agree with your overall opinion of the billboard. If I had not read a a thing about the show and was looking for a show to see when visiting NYC, had I chosen Priscilla Queen of the Desert I would have been in for quite a surprise.


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