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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 1 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 44
Get on the bus! An exclusive interview with Priscilla touring actor Bryan West
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Get on the bus! An exclusive interview with Priscilla touring actor Bryan West

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

PRISCILLA QUEEN OF THE DESERT PARAMOUNT THEATRE November 12 - 17

Bryan West is one of the three men with lead roles in the touring musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert. The big lavender bus rolls into Seattle on November 12, bringing this flashy production to the Paramount Theatre. SGN recently caught up with West, who is playing the role of Adam - otherwise known as Felicia. Eric

Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences in becoming a performer? Bryan

West: I grew up in Baltimore, so naturally it was the director John Waters. I used to go to the video store and rent his cult films - I don't know if my parents ever knew that. Divine and all those crazy characters in the movies he'd make, like Polyester and Female Trouble. Although I'm not really that kind of performer, they are the ones that got me interested in acting. Musically, I've been trained classically, but weirdly. My biggest influences are country singers like Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, and people like that - nothing that really applies to what I do now.

Andrews-Katz: What was the first show you ever performed in?

West: My first really big show I did was Hairspray. I was in the first national tour and saw an ad in the paper for auditions. It was an open call and I showed up to see 2,000 other people in line. I was shocked. I had no idea there would be that kind of turnout. I went back six different times and after the sixth audition, I got it. I packed up my life and went on the road for two years. After that, they asked if I'd be willing to move to New York and do the Broadway show. I've lived in New York ever since.

Andrews-Katz: Musicals based on a movie seem to be a long lasting trend. What movie would you like to see made into a musical?

West: I've had one in mind for a long time. I'd like to see Private Benjamin as a musical. I'd cast one of my good friends, Meggie (named after the Thorn Birds character) as the lead. She's not famous & yet.

Andrews-Katz: In Priscilla Queen of the Desert you play Adam/Felicia. What similarities and differences do you share with him?

West: I think my character is very sassy and very flashy - and, in ways, kind of naive. He gets into trouble because of that. He speaks before he thinks. But he has great one-liners and gets laughs. I love a good laugh! I love a good joke, and I love a good zinger. In my own life I am more conscious of my surroundings and how I make people feel. I have more experience in my life. It's fun to play a character like him, though.

Andrews-Katz: What was the most difficult challenge you dealt with performing in Priscilla Queen of the Desert?

West: First of all, I've done the show in New York and I have a life with my partner there. We've just celebrated two years on October 10th. Going on the road is hard when you have roots somewhere else. Being gone for the last nine months, it's been really hard. It's not easy to live out of a suitcase and have a relationship through the computer and telephone. It wears on you. Second of all, the show is hard physically. It's like running a marathon every night. I don't have to do much cardio at the gym anymore.

Andrews-Katz: What differences can fans of the film expect from the stage production?

West: I'm a big fan of the movie, but the movie tends to go to the dark side a little more. It's got a kind of dark, edgy overtone and obviously we are doing a musical, so it tends to be more hyped up and on steroids a little bit. It's like a big party. We don't shy away from the dark moments [on stage] but we don't dwell on them. We hit on them, make them effective in the show, and then go on with the celebration of joy we are putting on every night. It's more lighthearted. If you thought the costumes were fun in the movie, they are 10 times bigger on stage. When they got a real budget they went all-out!

Andrews-Katz: What have you learned from your performance in drag that you didn't know when performing as a man?

West: I was nervous about it at first. I did it and found it to be very empowering to be behind that kind of armor. It leaves you free to explore a lot of different characters and things that you normally wouldn't do dressed as yourself. It helped me grow a lot as an actor as well. I'm not scared of trying new things on any given night. Singing in those costumes and wigs makes you free.

Andrews-Katz: If you could play any role - regardless of restriction or limitation - what would it be, and why?

West: I'm always looking for the next thing to come along, but I would really love to play Mimi in Rent. I would love to be in Rent, period. It was the first show I saw and I loved it. It was the first time I saw musical theater where I connected with the music and thought, this is the stuff I'd love to sing. I think the story is so beautiful. It changed my career and my path by seeing that.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert is based on the 1994 film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Produced on Broadway in 2011 by the Divine Miss M (Bette Midler) herself, the musical changed a lot of the music from ABBA (due to Mamma Mia being on stage) to Kylie Minogue in Australia and London, before using a mix of Madonna and '80s pop hits on the Broadway stage. For more information and tickets, visit www.stgpresents.org.

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Get on the bus! An exclusive interview with Priscilla touring actor Bryan West
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