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Nick Adams, the star of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, prepares for his role. Photos by Pete Power/The Globe and Mail; text J. Kelly Nestruck

The Globe and Mail joined Adams, 27, in his dressing room at the Princess of Wales as he was transformed over the course of 30 minutes into his female alter ego for the first time.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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Ben Moir, an associate makeup designer who has been with the show since it premiered in Sydney in 2006, begins by applying a wax over Adams’s eyebrows to flatten and conceal them.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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Adams used a bar of soap to accomplish this task in his very first drag performance, as part of a community-theatre production of La Cage aux Folles in his hometown of Erie, Pa., at age 15. “It was on my dad’s recommendation,” says Adams. “He’s the one who persuaded me to do my first drag show.”

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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After Moir applies basic foundation to Adams’s face, he circles the actor’s eyes with “clown white,” a sticky base for the eye shadow to come. “It’s an old technique to make the eyes really pop,” says Moir, who was a drag queen in Sydney for a decade before becoming part of the Priscilla team.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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Moir presses blue and pink eye shadow into the clown-white foundation around Adams’s eyes. While Adams’s character has 18 costumes changes during the show, there’s only one makeup application.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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Mascara and liquid eyeliner are applied, then the eyebrows are stencilled in with a fine angle brush. Moir says this is the hardest part, mastering the particular arc of the eyebrows that Guy Pearce had in the film. “There’s a fine line between witchy and fierce,” he says.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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Fake eyelashes are added, then pink blush, lip liner and lipstick. Glitter -– specially imported from Australia -– is applied to the face and lips.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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Time to try on one of Adams’s 18 costumes designed by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner, who won an Oscar for their work on the 1994 film.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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For this outfit, Adams dons a pair of “ruffle panties” with a giant tail and a pair of platform boots, then is squeezed into his corset with a hand from dresser Tara McLeod, who recently helped Elicia MacKenzie into her habit as Maria in Mirvish Productions’ The Sound of Music.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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With his wig on and his transformation into Felicia complete, Adams -– normally 5-foot-11 -– becomes nearly eight feet tall and almost brushes the ceiling of the dressing room.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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Luckily, he’s got more experience navigating drag than just his teenage brush with it: Adams comes to Priscilla after playing Angelique in the Tony-winning revival of La Cage aux Folles on Broadway. “It was great training,” he says. “It’s perfect that this came along right on its heels. No pun intended!”

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

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