Palace Theatre, (3/20/2011 - 6/24/2012)

First Preview: Feb 28, 2011
Opening Date: Mar 20, 2011
Closing Date: Jun 24, 2012
Total Previews: 23
Total Performances: 526

Category: Musical, Original, Broadway

Opening Night Production Staff

Theatre Owned / Operated by Stewart F. Lane, James M. Nederlander and James L. Nederlander

Produced by Bette Midler, James L. Nederlander, Garry McQuinn, Liz Koops, Michael Hamlyn, Allan Scott, Roy Furman/Richard Willis, Terry Allen Kramer, Terri & Timothy Childs, Ken Greiner, Ruth Hendel, Chugg Entertainment, Michael Buckley, Stewart F. Lane/Bonnie Comley, Bruce Davey, Thierry Suc/TS3, Bartner/Jenkins, Broadway Across America/H. Koenigsberg, M. Lerner/D. Bisno/K.Seidel/R. Gold, Paul Boskind and Martian Entertainment/Spirtas-Mauro Productions/MAS Music Arts & Show and David Mirvish; Produced in association with MGM On Stage, Darcie Denkert and Dean Stolber; Associate Producer: Ken Sunshine

Book by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott; Based on the motion picture by Latent Image/Specific Films; Film Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.; Musical Director: Jeffrey Klitz; Music orchestrated by Stephen "Spud" Murphy and Charlie Hull; Music arranged by Stephen "Spud" Murphy

Directed by Simon Phillips; Choreographed by Ross Coleman; Developed for the Stage by Simon Phillips; Associate Director: Dean Bryant; Associate Choreographer: Andrew Hallsworth

Bus Concept and Production Design by Brian Thomson; Costume Design by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner; Lighting Design by Nick Schlieper; Sound Design by Jonathan Deans and Peter Fitzgerald; Make-Up Design by Cassie Hanlon; Associate Scenic Design: Bryan Johnson; Associate Costume Design: Brian J. Bustos; Associate Lighting Design: Michael P. Jones; Associate Wig Design: Richard Mawbey; Moving Lights and Video Programmer: Chris Herman

General Manager: B.J. Holt; Executive Producer: Alecia Parker; Company Manager: Thom Clay; Associate Gen. Mgr: Hilary Hamilton

Technical Supervisor: David Benken; Production Supervisor: Jerry Mitchell; Production Stage Manager: David Hyslop; Stage Manager: Mahlon Kruse; Associate Tech. Suprvr: Rose Palombo

Musical Supervisor: Stephen "Spud" Murphy; Conducted by Jeffrey Klitz; Associate Conductor: Jeff Marder; Woodwinds: David Mann; Guitar: Ed Hamilton; Trumpet: Barry Danielian; Trombone: Michael Davis; Bass: Luico Hopper; Drums: Warren Odze; Percussion: Roger Squitero; Musical Coordinator: John Miller; Music Copying: Martine Monroe

Flying by Foy

Casting: Telsey + Company; Press Representative: Boneau / Bryan-Brown; Advertising: SPOTCo, Inc.; Website Design/Online Marketing: SPOTCo, Inc.; Director of Marketing: Nick Pramik; Photographer: Joan Marcus; Dance Captain: Eric Sciotto

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Opening Night Cast

Nick AdamsAdam (Felicia)
C. David Johnson
Broadway debut
(Feb 28, 2011 - Feb 04, 2012)
Tony Sheldon
Broadway debut
Will SwensonTick (Mitzi)
Jacqueline B. ArnoldDiva
James Brown IIIJimmy
Nathan Lee GrahamMiss Understanding
J. Elaine MarcosCynthia
Anastacia McCleskeyDiva
Mike McGowanFrank
Jessica PhillipsMarion
(Feb 28, 2011 - Feb 04, 2012)
(Feb 28, 2011 - Feb 04, 2012)
Steve SchepisFarrah
Young Bernadette
Keala SettleShirley
Ashley SpencerDiva
Thom AllisonEnsemble
Kyle BrownEnsemble
Gavin LodgeEnsemble
Luke MannikusBenji
Jeff MetzlerEnsemble
Bryan WestEnsemble
Tad WilsonEnsemble
Ashton WoerzBenji
(Feb 28, 2011 - Sep 24, 2011)

Swings: Ellyn Marie Marsh, Eric Sciotto, Amaker Smith and Esther Stilwell

Understudies: Thom Allison (Bernadette, Jimmy, Miss Understanding), James Brown III (Miss Understanding), Kyle Brown (Frank), Gavin Lodge (Bernadette, Frank, Tick (Mitzi)), Luke Mannikus (Benji), Ellyn Marie Marsh (Cynthia, Diva, Marion, Shirley), Mike McGowan (Bob), Jeff Metzler (Young Bernadette), Steve Schepis (Adam (Felicia)), Eric Sciotto (Tick (Mitzi)), Amaker Smith (Jimmy), Esther Stilwell (Cynthia, Diva, Marion, Shirley), Bryan West (Adam (Felicia)), Tad Wilson (Bob) and Ashton Woerz (Benji)

Awards and Nominations

Tony Award®

 2011 Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical [nominee] 

Tony Sheldon

winner 2011 Best Costume Design of a Musical [winner] 

Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner

Drama Desk Award

 2011 Outstanding Musical [nominee] 

Produced by Bette Midler, James L. Nederlander, Garry McQuinn, Liz Koops, Michael Hamlyn, Allan Scott, Roy Furman/Richard Willis, Terry Allen Kramer, Terri & Timothy Childs, Ruth Hendel, Chugg Entertainment, Michael Buckley, Stewart F. Lane/Bonnie Comley, Bruce Davey, Thierry Suc/TS3, Bartner/Jenkins, Broadway Across America/H. Koenigsberg, M. Lerner/D. Bisno/K.Seidel/R. Gold, Paul Boskind and Martian Entertainment/Spirtas-Mauro Productions/MAS Music Arts & Show and David Mirvish; Produced in association with MGM On Stage, Darcie Denkert and Dean Stolber

 2011 Outstanding Book of a Musical [nominee] 

Book by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott

 2011 Outstanding Actor in a Musical [nominee] 

Tony Sheldon

winner 2011 Outstanding Costume Design [winner] 

Tim Chappel

winner 2011 Outstanding Costume Design [winner] 

Lizzy Gardiner

Theatre World

winner 2011 Award [recipient] 

Tony Sheldon


ACT 1 Sung By
It's Raining MenThe Divas, Tick and Company
What's Love Got to Do With It?Miss Understanding
I Say a Little PrayerTick
Don't Leave Me This WayBernadette, Tick and Company
Material GirlFelicia and the Boys
Go WestBernadette, Tick, Adam and Company
HolidayAdam, Tick and Bernadette
Like a VirginAdam, Tick and Bernadette
I Say a Little Prayer (Reprise) Tick and the Divas
I Love the NightlifeShirley, Bernadette, Mitzi, Felicia and Company
True ColorsBernadette, Mitzi and Felicia
Sempre LibreFelicia and the Divas
Color My WorldAdam, Tick, Bernadette and Company
I Will SurviveBernadette, Felicia, Mitzi, Jimmy and Company
ACT 2 Sung By
Thank God I'm a Country BoyThe Company
A Fine RomanceYoung Bernadette and Les Girls
Thank God I'm a Country Boy (Reprise) The Company
Shake Your Groove ThingMitzi, Bernadette, Felicia and the Divas
Pop MuzikCynthia and Company
A Fine Romance (Reprise) Bob
Girls Just Wanna Have FunAdam and the Divas
Hot StuffFelicia, the Divas and Bernadette
MacArthur ParkBernadette, Tick, the Divas and Company
Boogie WonderlandThe Company
The Floor ShowMitzi, Bernadette, Felicia and Company
Always on My MindTick and Benji
Like a PrayerFelicia and Company
We BelongFelicia, Mitzi, Bernadette and Company
Finally MedleyThe Company


New York Daily News: "Priscilla Queen of the Desert"

Hats and bustiers off to the wardrobe department at  "Priscilla Queen of the Desert," because without them there'd be no show.

Dressers, pressers and supervisors do heavy lifting at this glossy costume party masquerading as a  musical.

Based on Stephan Elliott's 1994 movie about three Australian drag queens, the production delivers eye-poppingly flashy (and fleshy) fun — for a while.

The joyride runs out of gas because Simon Phillips' busy big-budget spectacle works too hard to wow. As one character notes, less can be more.

As is, "Priscilla," adapted by Elliott and Allan Scott, is another movie plopped onto the stage without developing the plot or relationships. Energy was spent on finding ways to blast confetti and Ping-Pong balls, and to ensure audience participation. But those tricks, along with crass one-liners, a trio of gravity-defying girl goddesses and a tricked-out bus can't keep you from noticing what's missing.

The slim plot follows Tick, a female impersonator crossing the Outback in a rattletrap bus to meet his 6-year-old son for the first time.

He's hauled along Bernadette and Adam, two other cross-dressers. How they're friends is a mystery, which may be why there's never an event that brings them closer. Why Tick fears "coming out" about having a kid is left unanswered, too. Despite the cell phone we see on stage, attitudes about tolerance are so rotary dial.

The songs cover a wide array of disco staples, Madonna hits, Burt Bacharach tunes and Elvis. It makes for a fizzy musical mixtape, but one that lacks the focus of jukebox diversions like "Rock of Ages" or "Mamma Mia!"

Numbers in "Priscilla" have been chosen for their telltale title or first line, instead of what the songs say. A funeral suffices as a reason for "Don't Leave Me This Way." A half-baked "MacArthur Park" fantasy number emerges because, well, Tick sees a cake.

The cast has varying success with the sketchy alter egos. Tony Sheldon plays the clear-headed but over-the-hill showgirl, Bernadette, a role he originated in Sydney five years ago, and he is flat-out wonderful. He's tough and tender, knows how to get a laugh and lets Bernadette's soul shine as bright as his glittery getups.

As a Madonna-mad Adam, Nick Adams, Broadway's Mr. Zero Percent Body Fat, is fittingly bitchy, always ready with a snarky crack. His gym-buffed glutes, showcased in an itty-bitty thong, come within a thread of being TMI.

Will Swenson plays the insecure Tick and appears unsteady both vocally and in the high-camp drag numbers. The writers do him no favor by soaking father-son scenes in gooey sap.

Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner (who won an Oscar for their work in the film) share credit for the real star attraction: the 500 costumes. At their best, the clothes are truly awesome. At their worst, they are dehumanizing. Throughout "Priscilla," the three leads don't look male or female but like bizarre aliens. Call me a party pooper, but that was enough to make this supposed frolic a drag.

New York Daily News

New York Post: "Queen of Broadway"

So confident is “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” in its ability to ramp up the thrills that it doesn’t wait for the finale to drop the confetti — it falls a mere 30 minutes in shamelessly feel-good show won't do to entertain, from bringing theatergoers onstage to dance to lowering its singing divas from the rafters. It may look a bit ramshackle at times, but "Priscilla" has a big, joyous heart.

Adapted by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott from Elliott's 1994 movie, "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," this 2006 jukebox musical has made a few pit stops before landing on Broadway, where it opened last night.

That's fitting, in a way, since "Priscilla" is about three flamboyant misfits journeying through Australia's backwaters in the titular custom bus.

Our trio is made up of two drag queens -- sensitive Tick/Mitzi (Will Swenson, from "Hair") and brash Adam/Felicia (Nick Adams) -- plus the older, wiser transsexual Bernadette (Tony Sheldon). This guarantees a couple of things: There will be "oh snap!" lines, and the song list will read like the gay holy scriptures: "It's Raining Men," "Go West," "Hot Stuff," "I Will Survive."

Tick, Adam and Bernadette trek from Sydney to Alice Springs to appear in a casino show and, incidentally, meet Tick's young son -- it's not just in "La Cage aux Folles" that future drag artists sire children. On the way they visit several bars in the boondocks, where they stick out like neon signs. Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner's costumes almost require a return visit to fully absorb their delirious ingenuity.

Zippily directed by Simon Phillips, the show bursts with a festive spirit that helps overlook the ensemble's small size and the primitiveness of Ross Coleman's choreography.

But what really sustains "Priscilla" is the chemistry between the three leads. And here the triangle's lopsided.

At the peak is the remarkable Sheldon. The Australian actor, who created the role in Sydney, nails the balance of vulnerability and toughness, pathos and pride that keeps Bernadette going.

But Swenson, likable as he is, doesn't have a campy bone in his body, and seems miscast as Tick. Meanwhile, Adams' Popeye biceps are incongruous. When Felicia gets bashed by yahoos, it makes no sense: She looks as if she could easily flatten them all.

Oh well . . . there are still those outfits and those songs. When dancers dressed as giant cupcakes appear during "MacArthur Park," we enter some kind of psychedelic parallel dimension. And, for a musical, that's a very good thing.

New York Post

Variety: "Priscilla Queen of the Desert"

Priscilla, a tricked-up tour bus with a shoe on the roof, rolls onto the stage of the Palace Theater to roars from the audience, and proceeds to turn, twist and light up pink and purple. And then does it again (and again and again). So goes the brashly good-natured Aussie musical to which the bus lends its name, "Priscilla Queen of the Desert," which, born from Stephan Elliott's 1994 film, seems destined to follow the path of "Mamma Mia!" Inartful here, crass there, this rollicking crowdpleaser in sequins nonetheless packs enough heart to leave the masses enthralled.

Tale tells of three drag-show performers on a road trip of discovery through the Outback. Protagonist Tick (Will Swenson) is shamed by his ex-wife into visiting Benji (Luke Mannikus and Ashton Woerz alternating in the role), the 6-year-old son he left behind when he chose to put his mascara on; middle-aged transsexual Bernadette (Tony Sheldon) is looking for one last hurrah; outrageous young buck Adam (Nick Adams) just wants to have fun. Off they go through the desert to the inland casino run by Tick's estranged wife, beset by rowdy rednecks and a clogged gas tank.

Standout perf comes from Sheldon, an Australian who has played the role on three continents thus far. His Bernadette is simultaneously outrageous and human, caustic yet warmhearted. Swenson, star of the recent "Hair," does fine in heels and is especially tender when interacting with Benji. Adams, meanwhile, has high spirits and plenty for oglers to ogle. C. David Johnson offers low-key support as a gentle fellow who befriends the trio, and there is a raucously funny contribution from Keala Settle as a gruff lowlife in a poolroom.

Librettists Elliott and Allan Scott spend a bit too much time getting the boys on the bus; once en route, though, there's not much to do other than spin Priscilla around or bring on folksy townspeople to sing yet another ineffective production number. Second act starts at a low ebb, with the ensemble dragging up audience members for a country hoedown, followed by an extraneous number in which a girl dancer (J. Elaine Marcos) fires Ping-Pong balls out into the auditorium, without using a paddle. If you are so fortunate -- or unfortunate -- as to have one of these pink balls land in your lap, you will find they bear the show's logo with the warning "for external use only."

As with "Mamma Mia!," existing songs are shoehorned in with little rhyme or reason. (The "Priscilla" film was built on pre-existing disco hits, but only four have been retained in the Broadway song-stack.) The playbill contains 35 producer bios but no mention of the songwriters -- who include Bacharach, Madonna and Kern -- or singers of the many lip-synched songs.

Finest work of the evening, along with that of Sheldon, comes from costume designers Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner. The pair shared an Oscar for the film, and their wares here -- including those hats! -- positively sparkle. Staging by Simon Phillips and choreography by the late Ross Coleman are energetic, if occasionally aimless and overdone. Jerry Mitchell ("Legally Blonde") is prominently credited as production supervisor, and one expects he's helped whip "Priscilla" into glossy shape.

Show arrives as an international hit, following stints in Australia, New Zealand, London and Toronto; one can easily anticipate "Priscilla" rolling into major capitals across the world as quickly as they can procure enough feathers. For all the glitz, though -- and there is a lot of glitz -- there's a heart ticking true beneath it all, and that should earn "Priscilla" a long and profitable run at the Palace, with the merchandise stand doing big business in purple boas.


Wall Street Journal: "Choking on Sequins"

If your idea of a good show is one in which the chorus boys are dressed up to look like cupcakes, confetti is dropped at 8:34 and "I Will Survive" is sung twice, read no further. "Priscilla Queen of the Desert" (no comma, please) is the musical for you. If, on the other hand, you have an old-fashioned yen for shows in which touching things happen to believable people and the songs have something to do with the plot, stay as far away as possible from the Palace Theatre. (Wyoming might be far enough.) Not only is "Priscilla" a sequin-encrusted dragfest without a heart, but it's one of the biggest missed opportunities in the recent history of Broadway, a pointless musical version of a sweet little movie out of which something smart—and, yes, touching—might easily have been made. Instead we get human cupcakes.

Let's go back to the movie for a moment. Released in 1994, "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" told of how three drag queens, one of them an aging transsexual played, amazingly enough, by Terence Stamp, traveled across the Australian desert in a run-down motor home, looking for love in all the wrong places. Despite a few overly obvious moments, it was a modest and poignant film not unworthy of "La cage aux folles," by which it was clearly inspired, and has since become something of a cult classic.

Turning "Priscilla" into a stage musical is so good an idea that one wonders why it took so long. But in doing so, Stephan Elliott (who wrote and directed the movie) and Allan Scott (who collaborated on the book) have leached out every bit of sentiment from the film, replacing it with brass-plated showbiz pseudo-feeling. What makes the movie work, by contrast, is that the plights of the three principal characters are genuinely felt: We are invited to identify with their struggle to make their way in an uncomprehending world. The musical numbers are clever and fun, but they're not the point of "Priscilla."

The reason why the stage version of "La cage aux folles" works is that it preserves this same distinction: You care about the characters, just as you do in the film. In the stage version of "Priscilla," you don't care about anything but the costumes, each set of which is gaudier and more preposterous than the one that preceded it. (Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner, the designers, also did the costumes for the film.) It doesn't help, to put it mildly, that the "score" is a jukebox-style string of lip-sync classics like "What's Love Got to Do With It" and "Material Girl," with Jerome Kern's "A Fine Romance" and John Denver's "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" thrown in to confuse the issue. I don't much care for the warmed-over score that Jerry Herman contributed to "La Cage," but at least Mr. Herman made a good-faith effort to write musical numbers that reflect and amplify the show's underlying emotional current. The songs in "Priscilla," on the other hand, are mere occasions for ritual handclapping. As for Ross Coleman's choreography, you'll see better dances in theme parks.

Nick Adams, Tony Sheldon and Will Swenson, the traveling drag queens of "Priscilla," mostly do their own singing and shouldn't, especially Mr. Swenson, who has no voice at all. He plays Tick, the central character, who is traveling from Sydney to Alice Springs to see his young son for the first time. Yes, I know, it's "La Cage" all over again, but in the film version of "Priscilla" this subplot is played straight, so to speak, and you don't feel manipulated by the payoff—not too much, anyway. On stage it's turned into the kind of mechanical plot twist that gives TV movies a bad name, and Mr. Swenson and Jessica Phillips, who plays his wife, don't even try to breathe the slightest semblance of life into the dialogue. It's as though Simon Phillips, the director, had told them, "O.K., kids, step on it, gotta get through the exposition. Now bring on the giant spangled shoe!"

It seems that in order to keep the tourists happy, the book of "Priscilla" has been toned down considerably from the version that played in Australia and in London's West End. If this is the family-friendly version, I tremble to think what kinds of parents were taking their kids to see it elsewhere. The sight gags are blatant, the jokes crass and stale: "I've had it up to here." "Ouch! Lucky old you."

Since there really isn't anything good about "Priscilla Queen of the Desert" except the costumes, the pit band and the hard-working chorus, I'll let it go at that. Especially seeing as how Broadway is already the home of two shows—the Menier Chocolate Factory's revival of "La Cage" and Brian Bedford's brilliant mounting of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest"—in which drag is employed with supreme resourcefulness and theatricality, I suggest you stay home, rent the movie and save yourself a hundred bucks and 2½ hours' worth of noisy boredom.

Wall Street Journal

Replacement/Transfer Info

The following people are credited as replacements or additions if they were not credited on opening night.

Palace Theatre

(3/20/2011 - 6/24/2012)
Company Manager: Shaun Moorman(Aug 22, 2011 - Nov 20, 2011); Assistant Co. Mgr: Jeremy A. Davis(Aug 1, 2011 - Jun 24, 2012); Company Manager: Jeff Klein(Nov 21, 2011 - Jun 24, 2012).

Assistant Stage Mgr: Nathan K. Claus, Glynn David Turner, Mary Kathryn Flynt, Chad Lewis(Dec 26, 2011 - ?).


Todd A. Horman
Lisa Howard
Adam LeFevre
Bob (Feb 6, 2012 - Jun 24, 2012)
Gaten Matarazzo
Benji Alternate
Julie Reiber
Ensemble (Feb 6, 2012 - Jun 24, 2012)
Marion (Feb 6, 2012 - Jun 24, 2012)
Sebastian Thomas
Benji Alternate
Alysha Umphress
Anthony Wayne
Branch Woodman

Understudies: Joshua Buscher (Jimmy), Todd A. Horman (Bob), Amaker Smith (Miss Understanding), Anthony Wayne (Miss Understanding), Bryan West (Tick (Mitzi)), Branch Woodman (Bernadette).

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