There's a line in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert - one of the less memorable, it must be said - where older transgender character Bernadette tells younger drag queen Adam/Felicia sometimes less is more.

It's definitely not a sentiment the creative team behind the musical spectacular adhere to: more sequins, more sparkles, more glitz and more breath-taking costumes (471 to be precise) then you'll see in one theatre at any time are found here.

Apparently, it takes 200 wet wipes a night to remove the make-up from the cosmopolitan cast of ferociously talented singers and dancers who strut their stuff throughout the two and a half hour (including interval) show where the disco hits come loud and often. The one-liners - some of them far too rude to print here - are the type you want to remember and serve up yourself from time-to-time.

So Priscilla is stunning to look at and listen to; a hugely fun and entertaining night out loudly appreciated by crowds around me who were quick to give a standing ovation to the hard-working cast.


But not everything that glitters is gold.

Yes, the cast is energetic and enthusiastic and the musical numbers well-polished but some of the actual acting is patchy - Ray Meagher's performance as laconic Ozzie bloke Bob is perfect - and then there's the story itself.

It moves so fast that there's not a lot of time to be convinced the characters make the deep and meaningful connections we're led to believe they have or, indeed, for us to make with them. In addition, it's been eight years since Priscilla last played in Auckland and there have been some significant changes in that time.

Same sex marriage is now legal in New Zealand; in Priscilla's native Australia, out-of-touch politicians still stymie the introduction of marriage equality laws but appear out-of-step with Australians themselves, the majority of whom support the cause according to the most recent polls.

I'm not saying discrimination is a thing of the past, but hearts and minds seem to be a more open than ever before. It means the show's somewhat slight plot - a drag queen and two fellow performers travel to the outback to meet with the son he's never met while showing, underneath the make-up and outrageous costumes, they're just ordinary folks looking for acceptance - feels a tad dated.

(And while we're on the subject - why has the mother of his son been so forgiving about him essentially being a dead-beat dad?)

A reminder about how far we've come and how we should never take it for granted is always useful. But - and maybe I'm taking all of this a bit too seriously - if you're going to make a show that pleads for tolerance and acceptance, why resort to the basest of stereotypes for a welter of other groups?

In short, the style needs a bit more substance.

What: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Where & when: Civic Theatre, until November 13.