Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (musical)

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Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
The Musical
Priscilla Cast Album.jpg
BookStephan Elliott and Allan Scott
BasisStephan Elliott's 1994 motion picture The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Productions2006 Sydney
2007 Melbourne
2008 Auckland
2008 Sydney (return)
2009 London
2010 Toronto
2011 Broadway
2011 Milan
2012 São Paulo
2013 US National Tour
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Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
The Musical
Priscilla Cast Album.jpg
BookStephan Elliott and Allan Scott
BasisStephan Elliott's 1994 motion picture The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Productions2006 Sydney
2007 Melbourne
2008 Auckland
2008 Sydney (return)
2009 London
2010 Toronto
2011 Broadway
2011 Milan
2012 São Paulo
2013 US National Tour

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"). After he agrees 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 female 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
CharacterAustralia & New Zealand
(Sydney - first run, Melbourne, Auckland)
LondonToronto / BroadwayBrazil
Tick (Mitzi)Jeremy StanfordJason DonovanWill SwensonLuciano Andrey
BernadetteTony SheldonTony SheldonTony SheldonRuben Gabira
Adam (Felicia)Daniel ScottOliver ThorntonNick AdamsAndré Torquato
BobMichael CatonClive CarterC. David JohnsonSaulo Vasconcelos
The DivasDanielle Barnes, Sophie Carter, Amelia CormackZoe Birkett,Kate Gillespie, Emma LindarsJacqueline Arnold, Anastacia McCleskey, Ashley SpencerSimone Gutierrez, Priscila Borges, Lívia Graciano
Marion*Marney McQueenAmy Field, Yvette RobinsonJessica PhillipsNaíma
ShirleyGenevieve LemonDaniele CoombeKeala SettleAndrezza Massei
CynthiaLena CruzKanako NakanoJ. Elaine MarcosLissah Martins
Miss UnderstandingTrevor AshleyWesley SebastianNathan Lee GrahamLeandro Luna
JimmyKirk PageTristan TempleJames Brown IIIMarcelo Vasquez
FrankBen LewisJohn BrannochMike McGowanBeto Marque
Young BernadetteDamien RossSteven CleverleySteve SchepisDito Leite
Benjamin**Joshua Arkey, Alec Epsimos, Rowan Scott, Joel SlaterGene Goodman, Red Walker, Cameron Sayers,Trek Buccino (Toronto), Luke Mannikus, Ashton WoerzPedro Henrique, Lucas Cavalcante, Ricardo Carmo

*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)

The London production of the musical version of the film, December 2011.

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 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]

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. Other cities and cast are still to be announced.

8 January 2013 - 13 January 2013[13]Minneapolis, MNOrpheum Theatre
15 January 2013 – 27 January 2013Cleveland, OHPalace Theatre at Playhouse Square
29 January 2013 – 10 February 2013St. Louis, MOFabulous Fox Theatre
12 February 2013 – 17 February 2013Schenectady, NYProctors
19 February 2013 – 24 February 2013Buffalo, NYShea's Performing Arts Center
26 February 2013 – 3 March 2013Philadelphia, PAAcademy of Music (Kimmel Center)
5 March 2013 – 10 March 2013Pittsburgh, PABenedum Centre
19 March 2013 – 31 March 2013Chicago, ILAuditorium Theatre
2 April 2013 – 7 April 2013Miami, FLArsht Center
9 April 2013 – 14 April 2013Tampa, FLStraz Center
16 April 2013 – 21 April 2013Orlando, FLBob Carr
23 April 2013 – 28 April 2013West Palm Beach, FLThe Kravis Center
30 April 2013 – 5 May 2013Durham, NCDurham Performing Arts Center
8 May 2013 – 12 May 2013Austin, TXBass Hall
14 May 2013 – 26 May 2013Dallas, TXMusic Hall at Fair Park
28 May 2013 – 16 June 2013Los Angeles, CAPantages Theatre
3 September 2013 - 15 September 2013[14]Denver, COBuell Theatre


Musical numbers (original Australian and New Zealand productions)

Act I

Act II

Amendments for the London production

Musical numbers (Broadway)

Act I

  • Overture - Orchestra
  • It's Raining Men - The Divas, Tick and Company
  • What's Love Got to Do with It?* - Miss Understanding
  • I Say a Little Prayer* - Tick
  • Don't Leave Me This Way - Bernadette, Tick and Company
  • Material Girl - Felicia and the Boys
  • Go West - Bernadette, Tick, Adam and Company
  • Holiday / Like a Virgin* - Adam, Tick and Bernadette
  • I Say a Little Prayer (reprise) - Tick and The Divas
  • I Love the Nightlife - Shirley, Bernadette, Mitzi, Felici and Company
  • True Colors - Bernadette, Mitzi and Felicia
  • Follie! Delirio vano è questo! Sempre libera (from La traviata) - Felicia and the Divas
  • Colour My World - Adam, Tick, Bernadette and Company
  • I Will Survive - Bernadette, Felicia, Mitzi, Jimmy and Company

Act II

  • Thank God I'm a Country Boy* - The Company
  • A Fine Romance - Young Bernadette and Les Girls
  • Thank God I'm a Country Boy (reprise)* - The Company
  • Shake Your Groove Thing - Mitzi, Bernadette, Felicia and the Divas
  • Pop Muzik - Cynthia and Company
  • A Fine Romance (reprise) - Bob
  • Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - Adam and the Divas
  • Hot Stuff - Felicia, The Divas, and Bernadette
  • MacArthur Park - Bernadette, Tick, The Divas and Company
  • Boogie Wonderland* - The Company
  • The Floor Show* - Mitzi, Bernadette, Felicia and Company
  • Always On My Mind - Tick, Benji
  • Like a Prayer - Felicia and Company
  • We Belong - Felicia, Mitzi, Bernadette and Company
  • Finally (Finale) - The Company


A cast recording of the original Australian production was released on 29 September 2007;[15] 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."[16]

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."[17]

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.[18]

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.[19]

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.[20] 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).[21] Chappel and Gardiner won the award for Outstanding Costume Design.[22] 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).[23] Chappel and Gardiner once again won the award for Outstanding Costume Design.[24]

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.[25]


  1. ^ Rivera, Larry. "Priscilla Returns to Sydney". Retrieved 28 November 2008.
  2. ^ Andrew, Paul. "Priscilla Queen of the Desert - Review". 14 October 2007.
  3. ^ Hallett, Bryce."Priscilla Queen of the Desert, review and listing for Star City, 2008",Sydney Morning Herald, 13 October 2008
  4. ^ a b Shenton, Mark. "Priscilla Queen of the Desert — the Musical Arrives in London's West End 10 March",, 10 March 2009
  5. ^ article
  6. ^ Woolman, Natalie (2 September 2011). "Priscilla announces final performance". Stage. Retrieved 7 September 2011.
  7. ^ a b c "The Queen Finds a Palace on Broadway; Priscilla Will Open March 20, 2011". 15 September 2010.
  8. ^ "Priscilla Queen of the Desert Books Palace Theatre for March 2011 Opening". 15 September 2010.
  9. ^ "Bette Midler to produce Priscilla stage show". CBC. 13 October 2010.
  10. ^ "'Priscilla' Cast Album Gets 15 March Release From Rhino", 20 January 2011
  11. ^ "TV First Look", 15 February 2011
  12. ^ Priscilla Queen of the Desert Will End Broadway Run in June; Tour Begins in 2013
  13. ^ "Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical on Tour".
  14. ^ "Denver Center - Priscilla Queen of the Desert".
  15. ^ "Priscilla Queen of the Desert Stage Musical (The Musical Original Cast Recording) by Priscilla Queen Of The Desert - The Musical Original Cast Recording - Download Priscilla Queen of the Desert Stage Musical (The Musical Original Cast Recording) on iTunes". iTunes. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
  16. ^ de Jongh, Nicholas."Wild ride for Priscilla Queen Of The Desert", 24 March 2009
  17. ^ Probst, Andy."Review Roundup: Broadway-Bound Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical Officially Opens in Toronto",, 27 October 2010
  18. ^ Healy, Patrick. "Broadway Union Takes On ‘Priscilla’ Over Music", New York Times, 15 May 2011
  19. ^ Simmonds, Diana."Sydney Theatre Awards", 20 January 2009
  20. ^ Shenton, Mark."Spring Awakening, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Wicked Win Olivier Awards", 21 March 2010
  21. ^ "Outer Critics Circle Nominees Include 'Sister Act', 'Anything Goes', 'Book of Mormon' ", 2011
  22. ^ "War Horse, Book of Mormon, Other Desert Cities, The Kid Are Outer Critics Circle Winners". Retrieved 30 June 2011.
  23. ^ Gans, Andrew."56th Annual Drama Desk Nominations Announced; 'Book of Mormon' Scores 12 Nominations", 29 April 2011
  24. ^ "Drama Desk Awards Go to Book of Mormon, Normal Heart, War Horse, Sutton Foster, Norbert Leo Butz". Retrieved 30 June 2011.
  25. ^ "2011 Tony Nominations Announced; Book of Mormon Earns 14 Nominations". Retrieved 30 June 2011.

External links