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REVIEW ROUNDUP: Broadway-Bound Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical Officially Opens in Toronto

A scene from
Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical
(© Joan Marcus)
Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical has officially opened at Toronto's The Princess of Wales Theatre, where it will continue through January 2. The production will then move to Broadway's Palace Theatre, beginning previews on February 28, before opening officially on March 20.

The musical has been directed by Simon Phillips. Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott have adapted the show from the Academy Award-winning film about three friends searching for love and friendship in the middle of the Australian outback. The score is made up of well-known dance-floor songs.

The show stars Nick Adams (Adam/Felicia), Tony Sheldon (Bernadettte), and Will Swenson (Tick/Mitzi), along with Mike McGowan (Frank), C. David Johnson (Bob), James Brown III (Jimmy), Nathan Lee Graham (Miss Understanding), J. Elaine Marcos (Cynthia), Jessica Phillips (Marion), Steve Schepis (Farrah), and Keala Settle (Shirley).

The cast also includes Ashley Spencer, Jacqueline Arnold, Anastacia McCleskey, Thom Allison, Kyle Brown, Bryan West, Tad Wilson, Joshua Buscher, Susan Dunstan, Gavin Lodge, David Lopez, Ellyn Marie Marsh, Jeff Metzler and Eric Sciotto.

In addition, the production has choreography by Ross Coleman, musical supervision and arrangements by Stephen 'Spud' Murphy, set design by Brian Thomson, lighting design by Nick Schlieper, and sound design by Jonathan Deans. Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner have re-created their Academy Award-winning costume designs, which were originally designed for the film, while the BAFTA Award winning make up design is recreated by Cassie Hanlon.

Three of Canada's dailies have published their reviews, and, in general, the critics are responding favorably to the show, and finding much to praise in its physical production and in the performances from the principals.

Among the reviews are:

The Globe and Mail
First Impression review: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical
"Highlights: 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. Original cast member Tony Sheldon has dignity as Bernadette, while Adams has more muscle power than a station of buses. Token Canadian C. David Johnson as Bob handled a brief bout of technical difficulties like a true mechanic."

"The nitpicks: The recycled pop songs often stop the show, not in a good way. Try as you might, the lyrics from Go West just don't fit with the conflicted emotions that follow a gay bashing. And sometimes the fun feels too forced -- covering the audience with confetti before the drag queens have even left Sydney was little try-hard."

The Star
Toe-tapping honey of a show is no drag
"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."

"Swenson is totally masterful, showing us the campiest of queens at one moment and then a father with an aching heart the next. His wounded eyes are worth the price of admission."

"The costume designs of Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner are the other stars of the evening, a never-ending display of colour, camp and humour, while the direction of Simon Phillips and the choreography of Ross Coleman display everyone in the best light."

Toronto Sun
Priscilla, Queen musical is aces
"Under the direction of Simon Phillips, with choreography by Ross Coleman, this is the granddaddy of all drag shows, dressed up like its grandmammy, thanks to the costumes of Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner, who in the main eschew the female impersonation of 'classic drag' in favour of a sort of performance androgyny."

"All four of the principals thankfully prove to be very dab hands at fleshing out sketchy characters, supported by a hardworking ensemble featuring performers such as J. Elaine Marcos and Keala Settle, each of whom comes close to stealing the show with small but memorable turns."