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Priscilla Queen of the Desert - the Musical

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Title: Priscilla Queen of the Desert - the Musical  
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Priscilla Queen of the Desert - the Musical

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
The Musical
Music Various
Lyrics Various
Book Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott
Basis Stephan Elliott's 1994 motion picture The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Productions 2006 Sydney
2007 Melbourne
2008 Auckland
2008 Sydney (return)
2009 London
2010 Toronto
2011 Broadway
2011 Milan
2012 Milan (return)
2013 Rome
2013 Trieste
2012 São Paulo
2013 US National Tour
2013/14 UK Tour
2013 Stockholm
2014 Buenos Aires

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is a musical with a book by Australian film director-writer Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott, using well-known pop songs as its score. Adapted from Elliott's 1994 film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the musical tells the story of two drag queens and a transsexual, who contract to perform a drag show at a resort in Alice Springs, a resort town in the remote Australian desert. As they head west from Sydney aboard their lavender bus, Priscilla, the three friends come to the forefront of a comedy of errors, encountering a number of strange characters, as well as incidents of homophobia, while widening comfort zones and finding new horizons.

Produced by Allan Scott in coalition with Back Row Productions, Michael Chugg, Michael Hamlyn and John Frost, the Simon Phillips-directed and Ross Coleman-choreographed original production of Priscilla debuted in Australia at the Lyric Theatre, Sydney in October 2006. Having had a successful run in Sydney, the production transferred to Melbourne in 2007 and then New Zealand in 2008, before returning to Sydney for a limited engagement for its second anniversary. The Australian success of Priscilla provoked a two year strong West End production in addition to its Bette Midler-produced Broadway debut in 2011. While the original production received one out of its seven Helpmann Award nominations, Priscilla was nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical as well as two Tony Awards, winning these awards in the costume design categories.


Act I

The drag queen Mitzi Mitosis – whose real name is Anthony "Tick" Belrose – is performing at a club ("Downtown" [Australia and London]/"I've Never Been to Me"; "It's Raining Men" [Broadway]) when his wife Marion, whom he has been separated from for several years because of his homosexuality, calls in for a favour. While Tick is offstage, fellow drag queen Miss Understanding performs her own number ("What's Love Got to Do With It?") From the phone in Tick's dressing room, Marion reveals that she needs an act for a few weeks at her business in distant Alice Springs, Australia. Tick is at first reluctant, but Marion informs him that part of the reason she's asking is because their now eight-year-old son Benji wants to meet his father ("I Say A Little Prayer"). Tick confides in another fellow drag queen Farrah, before deciding he will leave for Alice Springs. After he decides to do the job, Tick calls a friend, a transsexual named Bernadette – whose birth name is Ralph – to join him but sadly, Bernadette's husband has just died. The pair meet at the funeral ("Don't Leave Me This Way") where Bernadette agrees to join him. Tick also asks a friend Felicia – whose real name is Adam Whitely – to come with them ("Venus"/"Material Girl"), with Bernadette taking an immediate dislike to his show-off performance style. Nonetheless, the newly formed trio buy a "budget Barbie campervan" they nickname "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" ("Go West"). Tick informs them that the trip is a favour to his wife, but does not tell them it is also to meet his son who wants to see him ("I Say A Little Prayer (Reprise)"). As the journey to Alice Springs begins, Adam angers Bernadette after cracking jokes about his old life before being a transsexual. Later the group goes into a bar, in full drag, and start a bar dance party ("I Love the Nightlife"), but when they return to the bus learn that the townspeople wrote hateful statements on the bus in spray paint. Tick is very upset, but Adam and Bernadette comfort him ("Both Sides, Now"/"True Colors"). While on the road, Adam practices his lip-syncing as Felicia sitting in the giant high heel on the roof of the van ("Follie! Delirio vano è questo! Sempre libera (from La traviata)"). The next morning, Priscilla breaks down and Adam buys lavender paint to erase the vandalism ("Colour My World"). They manage to get the locals of another town on their side and meet Bob, a mechanic from a small town nearby who agrees to help fix Priscilla. The group celebrates that they've found people that accept them ("I Will Survive").

Act II

The second act opens with a group of rednecks singing ("Thank God I'm A Country Boy"). Bernadette talks with Bob and learns that when he was in Paris, he saw her when she was a young "Les Girl" ("A Fine Romance"). The two begin to grow feelings for each other. Later in a bar ("Thank God I'm A Country Boy Reprise"), the trio is about to perform ("Shake Your Groove Thing") when Cynthia, Bob's wife, interrupts their act by "popping" ping-pong balls ("Pop Muzik"). After this, the trio leaves, leaving Bob to wonder about his feelings for Bernadette ("A Fine Romance (Reprise)"). All of a sudden, Bernadette asks if he wants a free ride back to his real home, in which he agrees ("Girls Just Wanna Have Fun"). Later when they arrive, Adam dresses up like a woman to try to meet men ("Hot Stuff"), but ends up getting chased and nearly becomes the victim of a hate crime until Bernadette rescues him by kicking one of his attackers. Later as they arrive in Alice Springs, Tick reflects on the trip ("MacArthur Park"). As another act performs first ("Boogie Wonderland"), the trio gets ready to perform a variety of songs that they sang or lip-synced on their journey ("The Floor Show"). Afterwards, Tick finally meets his son, who accepts his father's sexuality and lifestyle ("Always on My Mind/I Say a Little Prayer") and Adam gets to perform his own solo Madonna hit, ("Like A Prayer" [Broadway]; "Confide in Me/Kylie Medley" [Australia and London]), his favorite singer. Afterwards the gang talks about their plans after Alice Springs, and realize they can't leave each other ("We Belong"). They go off stage together and the company performs a medley of songs to close the show ("Finally (Finale)").

Cast information

Original casts
Character Australia & New Zealand
(Sydney - first run, Melbourne, Auckland)
London Toronto / Broadway Brazil UK Tour
US Tour Italy
(Milan, Rome, Trieste)
Tick (Mitzi) Jeremy Stanford Jason Donovan Will Swenson Luciano Andrey Jason Donovan, Noel Sullivan Wade McCollum Antonello Angiolillo
Bernadette Tony Sheldon Ruben Gabira Richard Grieve Scott Willis Simone Leonardi
Adam (Felicia) Daniel Scott Oliver Thornton Nick Adams André Torquato Graham Weaver Bryan West Mirko Ranù
Bob Michael Caton Clive Carter C. David Johnson Saulo Vasconcelos Giles Watling Joe Hart Maurizio Arena, Nicola Ciulla (in Trieste)
The Divas Danielle Barnes, Sophie Carter, Amelia Cormack Zoe Birkett, Kate Gillespie, Emma Lindars Jacqueline Arnold, Anastacia McCleskey, Ashley Spencer Simone Gutierrez, Priscila Borges, Lívia Graciano Emma Kingston, Laura Mansell, Ellie Leah Emily Afton, Bre Jackson, Brit West Loredana Fadda, Valentina Ferrari, Elena Nieri, Martina Pezzoli (in Trieste)
Marion Marney McQueen Amy Field, Yvette Robinson* Jessica Phillips Naíma Julie Stark Christy Faber Alice Mistroni, Valeria Belleudi
Shirley Genevieve Lemon Daniele Coombe Keala Settle Andrezza Massei Ellie Leah Babs Rubenstein Elisa Musso
Cynthia Lena Cruz Kanako Nakano J. Elaine Marcos Lissah Martins Frances Mayli McCann Chelsea Zeno Giada D'Auria
Miss Understanding Trevor Ashley Wesley Sebastian Nathan Lee Graham Leandro Luna Alan Hunter Nik Alexzander Andrea Verzicco, Andrea Rossi
Jimmy Kirk Page Tristan Temple James Brown III Marcelo Vasquez n/a Taurean Everett Cesar Josè Piombo, Pedro Gonzalez
Frank Ben Lewis John Brannoch Mike McGowan Beto Marque Leon Kay David Koch Gianluca Briganti
Young Bernadette Damien Ross Steven Cleverley Steve Schepis Dito Leite Regan Shepherd Travis Taber Gianluca Sticotti, Luca Buttiglieri
Benjamin** Joshua Arkey, Alec Epsimos, Rowan Scott, Joel Slater Gene Goodman, Red Walker, Cameron Sayers, Trek Buccino (Toronto), Luke Mannikus, Ashton Woerz Pedro Henrique, Lucas Cavalcante, Ricardo Carmo Various Shane Davis, Will B. Various (in Trieste: Giorgio Borghesi, Giulio Marino, Gabriele Pacini and Filippo Zoppolato)

*In the London production, the role of Marion was played by Yvette Robinson whilst Amy Field was on maternity leave (1 December 2009 – 25 September 2010).
**In every production, the role of Benjamin is played by more than one actor, each alternating at certain performances, due to their young age.


Original production (2006–08)

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert premiered on 7 October 2006 at the Lyric Theatre, Star City Casino, Sydney, Australia and ended its run on 2 September 2007.[1] Directed by Melbourne Theatre Company artistic director Simon Phillips, it starred Tony Sheldon as Bernadette, Jeremy Stanford as Tick (Mitzi) and Daniel Scott as Adam (Felicia) with Michael Caton as Bob.

The Sydney production transferred to the Regent Theatre in Melbourne, beginning previews on 28 September 2007 before opening on 6 October 2007. The show closed on 27 April 2008 to make way for the Australian premiere of Wicked.[2]

The Melbourne production transferred to Auckland in New Zealand for a limited run, opening on 28 May 2008 and closed on 6 July 2008.

The musical returned to the Star City Hotel and Casino in Sydney on 7 October 2008 for the second anniversary of the show's premiere and closed on 21 December 2008. The show starred original cast members Sheldon and Scott, alongside Todd McKenney as Tick and Bill Hunter as Bob.[3]

London (2009–11)

A West End production started previews on 10 March 2009 at the Palace Theatre with the opening press night on 23 March. It is co-produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group and directed by Simon Phillips with musical arrangements by Stephen 'Spud' Murphy, choreography by Ross Coleman, costume designs by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner, production designs by Brian Thomson, and lighting by Nick Schlieper.[4] The original cast included Jason Donovan as Mitzi (aka "Tick"), Tony Sheldon as Bernadette, and Oliver Thornton as Adam (Felicia).[4][5] Notable replacements include Ben Richards as Tick (Mitzi), Don Gallagher as Bernadette, Portia Emare as one of the DIVA's and Ray Meagher as Bob. The London production closed on 31 December 2011.[6]

Toronto (2010–11)

The musical opened on 12 October 2010 at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto as a Pre-Broadway tryout. The musical featured all the of the Broadway cast with a new production team. It received largely positive reviews and strong ticket sales. The musical played for 12 weeks, a month longer than originally planned, closing on 2 January 2011. Several modifications were made to the production.

Broadway (2011–12)

The musical opened on Broadway on 20 March 2011 at the Palace Theatre with previews beginning 28 February 2011.[7] Priscilla, however, made its North American debut at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto for a limited 12-week pre-Broadway tryout; the last performance was on 2 January 2011.

The original Broadway cast includes Will Swenson as Tick (Mitzi), Tony Sheldon, again, reprising his role of Bernadette, and Nick Adams as Adam (Felicia).[8] Choreography is by Ross Coleman, set design by Brian Thomson, lighting design by Nick Schlieper and costume designs by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner.[7] Producers include Bette Midler, who joined the production team after seeing the London production;[9] Liz Koops and Garry McQuinn for Back Row Productions; Michael Hamlyn for Specific Films; Allan Scott Productions; David Mirvish; Roy Furman; Terry Allen Kramer; James L. Nederlander; and Terri and Timothy Childs.[7]

The Broadway cast album was recorded in late January 2011 on Rhino Records for release on 15 March 2011.[10] The production released video footage from their North American premiere on Tuesday, 15 February.[11] The Broadway production closed on 24 June 2012 after 23 previews and 526 performances.[12]

Milan, Rome and Trieste (Italy) 2011–13

In June 2011 M.A.S. Music, Arts & Show and Poltronissima Spa announced, only a few months after the Broadway Opening, the arrival of “Priscilla” in Milan - Italy - in December 2011 (Teatro Ciak). In January 2013 the show also opened in Rome (Teatro Brancaccio) [13] and in May 2013 in Trieste (Politeama Rossetti). The musical has an incredible talented cast lead by its magnificent protagonists: Simone Leonardi simply perfect in the role of Bernadette; Antonello Angiolillo who plays the complicated role of Tick/Mitzi with great versatility; the sparkling Mirko Ranù face (and body) of the irriverent character of Adam/Felicia; the tremendous voices of the Divas Loredana Fadda, Valentina Ferrari, Elena Nieri and Martina Pezzoli. Within few months in Italy is “Priscilla Mania”: fans literally seduced by the magical of Priscilla, who want to see the show over and over (some of them more than 30 times!!)

São Paulo (2012)

The Brazilian production premiered in March 2012 at the Teatro Bradesco, São Paulo. The cast includes Ruben Gabira as Bernadette, Luciano Andrey as Tick/Mitzi, André Torquato as Adam/Felicia, Simone Gutierrez, Priscilla Borges and Livia Graciano as Divas, Andrezza Massei as Shirley, Lissah Martins as Cynthia, Leandro Luna as Miss Understanding and Saulo Vasconcelos as Bob. It is produced by GEO Produções Artísticas. The Brazilian disco anthem "Dancing Days" was added in the finale, also this production is the first Brazilian production to have the songs sung in English.

US National Tour (2013)

On 29 April 2011 it was announced that a national tour would begin Fall 2012. The tour will open 8 January 2013 at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis.

Cast List: Wade McCollum (Tick/Mitzi), Scott Willis (Bernadette), Bryan West (Adam/Felicia) and Joe Hart (Bob). Ensemble: Emily Afton, Nik Alexzander, John Capes, Andrew Chappelle, Shane Davis, Alex DeLeo, Taurean Everett, Christy Faber, Amy Hillner, Bre Jackson, Chris Klink, David Koch, Ralph Meitzler, Alex Ringler, Babs Rubenstein, Travis Taber, Brit West, Will B. Whitesell and Chelsea Zeno.

Other cities are still to be announced.

Dates City Venue
8 January 2013 - 13 January 2013[14] Minneapolis, MN Orpheum Theatre
15 January 2013 – 27 January 2013 Cleveland, OH State Theatre at Playhouse Square
29 January 2013 – 10 February 2013 St. Louis, MO Fabulous Fox Theatre
12 February 2013 – 17 February 2013 Schenectady, NY Proctors
19 February 2013 – 24 February 2013 Buffalo, NY Shea's Performing Arts Center
26 February 2013 – 3 March 2013 Philadelphia, PA Academy of Music (Kimmel Center)
5 March 2013 – 10 March 2013 Pittsburgh, PA Benedum Centre
19 March 2013 – 31 March 2013 Chicago, IL Auditorium Theatre
2 April 2013 – 7 April 2013 Miami, FL Arsht Center
9 April 2013 – 14 April 2013 Tampa, FL Straz Center
16 April 2013 – 21 April 2013 Orlando, FL Bob Carr
23 April 2013 – 28 April 2013 West Palm Beach, FL The Kravis Center
30 April 2013 – 5 May 2013 Durham, NC Durham Performing Arts Center
8 May 2013 – 12 May 2013 Austin, TX Bass Hall
14 May 2013 – 26 May 2013 Dallas, TX Music Hall at Fair Park
28 May 2013 – 16 June 2013 Los Angeles, CA Pantages Theatre
18 June 2013 - 18 August 2013 Las Vegas, NV The Venetian Resort & Casino
21 August 2013 - 31 August 2013 San Francisco, CA SHN Orpheum Theatre
3 September 2013 - 15 September 2013[15] Denver, CO Buell Theatre
17 September 2013 - 22 September 2013 Tempe, AZ ASU Gammage
29 September 2013 - 12 October 2013 Houston, TX The Hobby Center
15 October 2013 - 20 October 2013 San Diego, CA San Diego Civic Theatre
22 October 2013 - 27 October 2013 Costa Mesa, CA Segerstrom Center for the Arts
29 October 2013 - 3 November 2013 San Jose, CA San Jose Center for the Performing Arts
5 November 2013 - 10 November 2013 Sacramento, CA Community Center Theatre
12 November 2013 - 17 November 2013 Seattle, WA Paramount Theatre

UK National Tour (2013-14)

In August 2012 it was announced that a national tour of the UK would begin in early 2013. The tour is produced by David Ian Productions and opened on 9 February 2013 at the Manchester Opera House and expected to close 15 March 2014 at New Theatre, Wimbledon.[16][17]

Cast includes: Jason Donovan and Noel Sullivan (Tick/Mitzi) [depending on venue], Richard Grieve (Bernadette), Graham Weaver (Adam/Felicia), Giles Watling (Bob), Alan Hunter (Miss Understanding), Regan Shepherd (Farrah/Young Bernadette).


The Swedish production will premiere on September 21, 2013 at the Göta Lejon. The cast will include Björn Kjellman as Bernadette, Pernilla Wahlgren as Diva, Patrik Martinsson as Tick/Mitzi, Erik Høiby as Adam/Felicia, Joel Almroth as Miss Understanding, David Sigfridsson as Farrah, Niklas Löjdmark as Frank, Caroline Sehm as Cynthia, Annika Herlitz as Marion and Jenny Asterius Persson as Shirley. The ensemble will include Daniel Gill, Henrik Jessen, Magnus Borén, Nils Sundberg, Johan Klarbrandt, and Andrew Gordon Watkins. Tommy Englund and Henric Flodin will be swings.


Musical numbers (original Australian and New Zealand productions)

Amendments for the London production

  • (†) "I Say a Little Prayer" is the fifth number, and is again reprised as the ninth number of the show in the London production. This, therefore, means that each number (from the fifth number onwards) in Act I is one number delayed. This gives a total of fourteen numbers in Act I of the London production.
  • (*) "Go West (reprise)" is replaced by "Come into My World" in the London production.
  • (^) Although replaced by "Kylie Medley" in the London production, "Confide in Me" appears in that medley.

Musical numbers (Broadway)

  • * - Song does not appear on Original Broadway Cast Recording.


A cast recording of the original Australian production was released on 29 September 2007;[18] both in stores and on the Australian iTunes. All songs, with the exception of the reprise of "Go West", from the original Australian production are present on the recording and are performed by the original Australian cast. A Broadway cast recording was released on 5 April 2011.

Critical reception

In reviewing the West End production, the London Evening Standard (thisislondon) reviewer wrote: "From the first moments when three divas hang suspended high above a silver-spangled bridge and belt out Downtown, the show never loses its spectacular, helter-skelter momentum of songs to which the drag queens lip-sync."[19]

Reviews for the Toronto production include praise for the costumes from the Globe and Mail: "The costumes designed by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner, the same team that won an Oscar for the movie, are a fabulous mix of Village People meet Tim Burton culminating in, at the curtain call, a whole crass menagerie of dragged-up koalas and 'roos." The Star favorably wrote: "This eye-popping, ear-pleasing, toe-tapping honey of a show moves like a cyclone from start to finish and will leave you gasping for breath on numerous occasions, thanks to its spectacular spectacle, its raunchy humour and its virtuoso performances."[20]

Dispute over use of recorded music

Use of a recorded string section in the Broadway production of Priscilla led to a dispute between producers and the American Federation of Musicians (AFM). The AFM argues that using recordings in place of live music is a marginal cost-saving measure which cheats audiences of the full, rich sound of a live orchestra. Producers argued that the artistic conception of the show requires a "synthetic pop flavor" that can only be achieved with recorded music. AFM member Scott Frankel, who composed the music for Grey Gardens, stated: "What is most special about seeing a Broadway musical, rather than some other art form, is the interaction between the orchestra musicians and the performers onstage". The dispute is currently awaiting arbitration.[21]

Awards and nominations

The Sydney production won the 2008 Sydney Theatre Awards for Best Production Of A Musical and Judith Johnson Award For Best Performance By An Actor In A Musical - Tony Sheldon.[22]

The West End production of Priscilla received three nominations at the 2010 Laurence Olivier Awards for Best New Musical, Best Actor in a Musical (Tony Sheldon) and Best Costume Design (Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner). Chappel and Gardiner won the award for Best Costume Design.[23] It also received seven nominations at the 2010 Theatregoers' Choice Awards and went on to win four awards there: Best New Musical, Best Supporting Actor in a Musical (Oliver Thornton), Best Set Designer (Brian Thomson) and Best Choreographer (Ross Coleman). The West End production was nominated for a further eight awards at the UK Awards and won two: Best Costume Design (Chappel and Gardiner) and Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Thornton).

The Broadway production received four Outer Critics Circle Award nominations: Outstanding New Musical, Outstanding Actor in a Musical (Tony Sheldon), Outstanding Costume Design (Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner), and Outstanding Choreographer (Ross Coleman).[24] Chappel and Gardiner won the award for Outstanding Costume Design.[25] The musical also received four Drama Desk Awards nominations: Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Actor in a Musical (Tony Sheldon), Outstanding Book of a Musical (Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott), Outstanding Costume Design (Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner).[26] Chappel and Gardiner once again won the award for Outstanding Costume Design.[27]

On 3 May 2011 the musical received two Tony Award nominations: Best Actor in a Musical (Tony Sheldon) and Best Costume Design (Tim Chappel & Lizzy Gardiner), winning for costume design.[28]


External links

  • Internet Broadway Database
  • Official Priscilla website
  • Priscilla in London
  • An interview with Tony Sheldon talking about his work in PRISCILLA -
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