National Touring Company
When: August 21-31, 2013
Where: SHN Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market Street at 8th, San Francisco, California
Tickets:$45-$210; call 888-746-1799 or visit shnsf.com When:October 29-November 3, 2013
Where: San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, 255 Almaden Boulevard, San Jose, California
Tickets:Visit Broadway San Jose or call 408-606-9888
Tour website: Visit www.priscillaontour.com
Wade McCollumn's website
Here's something I wrote in 2011, when reviewing "Fly By Night" at TheatreWorks, about actor Wade McCollum:
The man has tremendous stage charisma he controls the stage, he controls the audience, he is the power that makes this show succeed.
Part of it comes from the way the role is written. He is the Narrator, but also handles a number of other roles, sometimes with the aid of a simple prop, sometimes just with a change in voice. He is some kind of street-gypsy seer; he is someone's old friend, driving a car with no lights during blackout; he is a stage producer; he is a nightclub emcee; he is another character's father-and her mother. At times he is us the audience watching someone's life changing on stage.
But not just any actor could make this role work. An actor with less presence on stage might deliver the lines well enough, but there are few who could deliver the lines in a way that commands attention, and rewards that attention with a mesmerizing performance. All eyes are on him, regardless of what else is going on.
He is an excellent singer, and the tunes he delivers are sometimes almost scary in their power. Very impressive.
That was 2011, a show that was very well received and respected in its world premiere at TheatreWorks.
This is now, and McCollum is touring with the national road show of "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The Musical," currently at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco.
The musical is based on the 1994 film, and is about two drag queens and a transsexual who trek across Australia to Alice Springs. Tick -- stage name Mitzi Mitosis -- is doing a favor for his ex-wife, who needs an act at her club for a few weeks. Also, so he can meet his son, who is eight years old.
It becomes a kind of comedy of errors, with the trio surviving some homophobia, learning some things about themselves, and singing and dancing to a lot of pop music. "It's Raining Men," "Material Girl," "I Say A Little Prayer," "I Love the Nightlife" and many others.
It's a hugely colorful show, with fabulous, Tony-award-winning costumes, an over-the-top set and helter-skelter pacing.
McCollum plays Tick. He's enjoying the show, he said in an interview a couple of days before it opened in San Francisco, coming up on the 200th performance of the tour.
"It's great group of people," he said of the maybe 50 people who travel with the show, whose sets and scenery travel in nine semi trucks.
"It's a real crowd pleaser, a lot of appealing elements. It gets a great reception."
While in Dallas, Texas, for "Priscilla," McCollum got to see a production of "Fly By Night" with someone else in role he originated at TheatreWorks.
"I was bowled over by how insanely brilliant it was," McCollum said. "I'd never been outside the story. It's really profound."
"Fly By Night" is a "huge hit" in Dallas, McCollum said. "That show has a profoundly long future. It will be an archetype perennial show, like 'The Fantasticks.'"
McCollum was already committed to "Priscilla" when the Dallas production of "Fly By Night" was casting.
But, "Fly By Night," By Kim Rosenstock, Will Connolly and Michael Mitnick, is also scheduled for off-Broadway in 2014.
"I would love to be considered for it," said McCollum.
It could almost be considered poetic that when I spoke with McCollum by phone, he was traveling.
He was in his Toyota Echo, "just coming over the mountain into Napa Valley," he said, moving south from a visit with his mother in Ashland, Oregon, on his way to star in "Priscilla" at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco.
But it wasn't really poetic, it's just the way he has lived his entire life.
His father was a drummer in bands, and Dad, Mom and baby Wade traveled from town to town in a van, sleeping hotels, at friend's houses and in the van.
His father's bands? "I was conceived in 'Foolish Pleasure,'" McCollum wrote in a charming essay, "born into a band called 'Reflections' and shortly thereafter he joined a band called 'Trace.'"
That essay includes the story of how, at age two and a half, he met a boy in Nebraska named T.C. They got along fine, then the McCollumn family hit the road again. A year of living on the road later, they returned.
"As we drove up, I saw T.C. and was blown away by the incredible synchronicity of us being back at the same little yellow house at the same time as his family. What were the chances?! I ran up to T.C. expressing my amazement, but he had no idea why I was so excited. Confused, he explained that he 'lived' there. When I asked what he meant, he explained that he had never left.
"For me, this was a worldview shift of cosmological proportions. Once I understood that he had not left that little yellow house for the entire year, or his tiny little town for his entire life, I felt a sadness so deep, I burst into tears."
As an adult, as a powerful, busy and well respected actor, playwright, singer, performer, his record for staying in one place, he thinks, was nine months in Portland, Oregon, once.
"I had an apartment in L.A.," he said, "But came up for a show, then was hired for another show, and then for another show."
The plays were "My Own Wife," "Metamorphosis" and "Assassins."
"I'm gigging out and spending a few months in different places," he said. "It's really fun. I love seeing the country, meeting with different communities. ... Instead of living in hotels, I've been trying to stay with people."
The "Priscilla" tour, which opened in Minneapolis in January, ends in November, in Seattle.
Then, back to New York for McCollum, which is home, as much as it can be, where McCollum has his own place, and his fiancé, Noah Jordan.
It's also where he works on "Submissions Only," a video series about the theatrical life in which he performs. He's been flying back to New York on Mondays, his days off, working a bit on the show, then climbing back on another airplane.
"Submissions Only" just had a party celebrating its third season, at 54 Below, a nightclub below Studio 54 (which is still called Studio 54, although it is home to a theater now, not a nightclub).