Monday, June 27, 2011

Review: 'Priscilla Queen of The Desert' Dressed for the Palace Theatre on Broadway

left to right: Nick Adams (Adam Felicia), Tony Sheldon (Bernadette)
and Will Swenson (Tick/Mitzi) star in 'Priscilla Queen of the Desert'.
note: above photo added to post 8/11 in new advertising campaign
prominently featuring Bette Midler's name as producer and the
three male leads.
Priscilla bus interior with the Diva chorus hanging about.
(all images: Joan Marcus)
Nick Adams
“Life’s an adventure…dress accordingly” is emblazoned over the lobby boutique selling merchandise for ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ now playing on Broadway at the Palace Theatre. And the cast does dress to the hilt in the outlandish styles of more than 500 costumes.

The musical is an adaptation of the 1994 film “The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert”. Set in Australia, the story follows the adventures of Tick and two friends, Bernadette and Adam – all drag queens, as they travel on a bus christened Priscilla from Sydney across the outback to Alice Springs to perform a show and reunite Tick with his son. Along the way they gain additional lessons in the meaning of love and friendship with more than a generous helping of disco songs thrown in and confetti here and there added for good measure.

Will Swenson
In the role Tick/Mitzi, Gavin Lodge filled in for an absent Will Swenson. When reports surfaced that Swenson was cast in the role, it appeared the choice was in opposition to the casting choices in London. Swenson has an appearance of being too manly for the role in lieu of the metrosex charms of Jason Donovan who originated the role and Ben Richards who took on the role during the performance I saw in London by coincidence at London’s Palace Theatre.

As for Lodge, he fit comfortably in the flamboyant musical numbers but especially heart warming in the scenes with his ex and son.

Tony Sheldon has turned the role of Bernadette into his own cottage industry having originated the role in Australia, London, Toronto and now New York. True he has the advantage of playing the role for several years but he manages to convey the disappointments and dreams with the life choices the character has made. His is an outstanding, moving and hilarious performance. Nick Adams as Felicia/Adam is the third in the mis-matched road trip trio.

Will Swenson, Nick Adams and Tony Sheldon
Tony Sheldon, Will Swenson and Nick Adams
With dazzling effect in London, the reveal of Priscilla the bus as she is lit up in neon pink appeared less impressive to the crowd tonight compared to the wild reaction at the London performance. However the energy the cast displays for the ensemble numbers seem boundless. Production values are top notch with Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner recreating their Academy Award winning designs for the stage.

One point of contrast between from London production is the removal of dialogue about and songs by Australian singer Kylie Minogue replaced with references to and hits by Madonna. Other additional tweaks have been made to the collection of songs (such as "Both Sides Now" replaced by "True Colors"). (Original Broadway Cast and Original Australian Cast available on; a London cast recording is unavailable.)

This production is indeed polished and lightning should have struck twice with the creative and design team duplicating their roles on Broadway. But some of the humor appears forced in the end product and the direction more coy in it aspirations exemplified by advertising featuring the chorus of divas rather than the three male leads. If the whole endeavor seems manufactured for American audiences it’s Mr. Sheldon who is the talented tent pole holding up the production. 

Click HERE to read my review of the London Production. More production photos after The DETAILS below.

The Company
left to right: As the divas - Jacqueline B. Arnold, Anastacia McCleskey
and Ashley Spencer. Original advertising campaign featured the
Divas prominently.

The Company
Tony Sheldon
Interior of Priscilla bus.
Nick Adams
Tony Sheldon, Will Swenson, Nick Adams.
Will Swenson (center) and the ensemble.
Will Swenson, Tony Sheldon and Nick Adams.
Tony Sheldon
Will Swenson


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