Review – Priscilla: Queen of the Desert (Mirvish)

By Crystal Wood

Do you happen to enjoy fun?  Then, you owe it to yourself to see Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, the Musical, which officially opened at the Princess of Wales Theatre last night.

You may be familiar with this story of three drag queens crossing the Australian desert from the 1994 movie, but let me assure you, the movie will not prepare you for the level of bubble-gum entertainment you are about to witness.  From the moment the lights dim and the disco ball rises, you’re in for 2.5 hours of hot pink and 80’s pop.

Let’s see if I can describe the level of camp in this show.  Take some cotton candy, multiply it by rainbows, add an obscene amount of glitter and put a feather boa on it.  And then, add some dancing cupcakes.

It’s even more campy than that.

It would be impossible to be in a bad mood after seeing this show.  In fact, it’s quite hard to write a review when you’re still smiling and humming “It’s Raining Men” an hour after leaving the theatre.  The songs in this production are all ones you’ll know, from “Material Girl” to “I Will Survive,” which makes singing along easier.

The actors playing the three main characters (Will Swenson, Tony Sheldon and Nick Adams) should be commended for the blur of choreography and costume changes that they go through each night.  Although all three were enjoyable, I especially enjoyed Adam’s “Felicia”.  And for those who like having their heartstrings pulled, the show also stars what might in fact be the cutest 8-year-old boy in Toronto (Luke Mannikus.)

My show partner for this evening, Sam (a fellow writer on MoT) enjoyed it just as much as I did.  “It was freaking amazing,” were her exact words.  “There are not enough superlatives to describe how much I liked it!”  It seemed like the crowd agreed with us, whooping and sporting pink feather boas.  (If you forget your boa at home, they’re on sale at the gift shop.)  Even a set glitch on opening night didn’t damper the audience’s enthusiasm.

It should probably be noted that there isn’t much in the way of addressing serious gay/lesbian issues here.  They sweep past a bashing scene pretty quickly, but there is a very touching father-son moment that gives the show a bit of weight.  I think, though, that you probably don’t go to a show called Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, the Musical for the solemnity, so the lack of it didn’t really phase me.  In fact, the only real downside to this show is that nothing in life will ever be as fun again.

The show plays until January 2, before heading off to Broadway.  I would recommend buying tickets early, since I have a feeling it might sell out.  Plus, I’ll be returning at least 10 more times…


– Playing until January 2, 2011 at The Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King Street West.

– For tickers, call TicketKing at 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333, or order online. Tickets cost $45 to $107.

– Showtimes: Tuesday through Saturday at 8pm, Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2pm

Photo of Toronto cast, by Joan Marcus

2 thoughts on “Review – Priscilla: Queen of the Desert (Mirvish)”

  1. I’ve been telling everyone I know to go and see Priscilla. Amazing costumes, fabulous choreography, great music, fun, fun, fun. Fun!

    Some nice site gags too – the three main characters in full drag wearing platform Blundstones to climb Ayers Rock.

    From the bottom of my heart I want to thank the producers for casting a short fat chick as a dancers. And dressing her in gorgeous costumes. NICE!!! There’s hope for all of us fat chicks.


  2. Yes, I liked this show very much as well. It has so much heart. There was perhaps a bit too much raunch for my taste, but apart from that it’s a fun night out in the theatre. I think it will get Tony nominations for Best New Musical, Best Costume Design, Best Lighting, Best Actor in a Musical for Tony Sheldon. Nick Adams was wonderful. Will Swenson didn’t quite stand out as much for me. Perhaps his part needs a bit of a buildup. For those who think Mamma Mia is the greatest show of all time. I may go back to see it again in NYC. If you go back to see it 10 times, that will cost you about $1000. Hmm…not sure it’s worth that much. But if you can afford it, by all means.

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