LGBT theater bringing ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ musical to Atlanta
By JIM FARMER
One of the bigger stories this fall is the emergence of Out Front Theatre, which is devoted to producing queer-themed work locally. The company’s splashy first production in October is “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical.” The Georgia Voice caught up with founder Paul Conroy recently to talk about why he started the company, why “Priscilla” rocks and what the rest of his season looks like.
The Georgia Voice: Hi Paul. Tell us a little about the company.
The idea was born about two years ago when I was finishing grad school in Chicago. I was deciding what the next step was going to be for my career. I started to look at other theaters and their scenes and I realized that a lot of other cities, such as Chicago, had theaters whose emphasis was the LGBTQ community. I thought, Atlanta has a theater community that focuses on African-American work, one that focuses on women’s works, even one that focuses on Irish work. But we didn’t have anything for a queer audience. It was around the time that marriage had become legal in all 50 states.
I thought a place like Atlanta needs a theater company like this to tell these stories. Theater is a great way to introduce topics to people without making it threatening. That is how it was born. Now two years later here we are with our 501(c)(3) certification before we do any productions and we have a theater in West Midtown. Everything seems to be gelling and moving along well.
I think people in the community are starving for what our mission is. We have had incredible support. We have a lot of people who want us to take off like a rocket from the first show. It’s been better than I ever expected. The community has put a lot of faith in us.
Did you always know that “Priscilla” was going to be your first show?
No. We were actually planning a different musical. Then I saw that “Priscilla” was going to be available and we scrapped the musical we were planning and said “Priscil-
September 16, 2016
Out Front Theatre founder Paul Conroy (l) and actors Justin Thompson, Robert Ray and Jason-Jamal Ligon (above, l-r). (Photo by Brian Wallenberg) la” is it. It has such great name recognition. It has music that everyone knows and loves. It seems accessible to introduce us while staying true to our mission. And this will be the first production of it in the state.
Tell us about the stage version and how it compares to the film.
It’s about 95 percent the same. There’s the scene on top of the bus, and the ping pong ball. Any of the changes are really small. There is no Abba music but there’s a lot of other music - “It’s Raining Men,” Cyndi Lauper music, “I Will Survive,” “Go West,” “I Love the Night Life, “Boogie Wonderland,” “Hot Stuff.”
Why has the show not played in Georgia before?
The national tour did not come through here because, frankly, the majority of audiences that go to The Fox are more conservative and would not appreciate a show like that. It deals with subject matter that a certain section of Atlanta and Georgia would not feel comfortable with.
Tell us about the rest of the season.
The next show is the Southeastern premiere of “A Kid Like Jake.” It’s a show that deals with parents who live in Manhattan who are attempting to get their son in a prestigious preschool. They realize he is having some gender identity issues. The last show is Paul Rudnick’s “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told.” The first act is a re-telling of The Bible in the Garden of Eden going to the birth of Jesus through the first gay and lesbian couple. The second act takes all of these characters to modern day New York.