As the curtain went up and the Divas floated down from high above the stage to kick off the “It’s Raining Men” number everyone in the audience knew that they were going to be in for a special treat. We were not to be disappointed in any way that evening.
Priscilla is the complete Broadway musical. It has all the classic elements guaranteed to entertain: outlandish costumes, fantastic special effects, intriguing light tricks, great acting and lots and lots of fun music and dancing, and that is just the first number. Add to that Priscilla the bus with its ultimate disco interior and special effects lighting exterior, razor sharp writing and a story with real heart you have two hours of solid entertainment. In fact it literally has something for everyone.
Realize, though, that the show has adult themes so if you have anything against Australia you may want to skip this one.
There are twenty eight outrageous musical numbers all with the most colorful collection of costuming that has not seen the foot lights since the era of Busby Berkeley (except that it is mostly men wearing the elaborate gowns). You find yourself shifting from emotion to emotion. You’re laughing, you’re crying, you’re in awe, you’re surprised, you’re dazzled and most of all you’re totally entertained. Plus, not to mention audience members invited on stage to help out a dance number and flying confetti, streamers and ping pong balls shot out into the audience…so I will not mention that.
For all of us oldsters who actually admit to remembering and enjoying the disco era it is a romp down memory lane, but that is just a part of the musical play list. In the course of the evening you hear everything from mo-town, pop, country, opera, crooning, Madonna, ballads and more. It is a musical smorgasbord.
Take away all the glitz and glitter; you still have great dramatic performances from this veteran troupe of actors. Wade McCollum plays Tick who performs professionally dressed in women’s clothes as Mitzi. He brings a balance of maturity and common sense as well as a “this is what I am, take it or leave it” shading to the role. He is joined by Scott Willis who plays Bernadette; an aging performer of the same genre who yearns for the days when the shows were elaborate productions. Bryan West rounds out the bus bound trio as Adam who operates under the stage name of Felicia. He is young, brash and reckless and thinks that the modern shows need to strip away the mystique of by-gone days and show the performers for what they are; men dressed as women performing as women. Along the way, they pick up Bob (played by Joe Hart) as a man chasing his heart for a place to settle down.
The interaction of this quartet is really what carries the show. You get a feeling of true friendship between them and the portrayals feel unencumbered and real. There are some true tender and gentle moments that act as a buffer between the exciting and dazzling group musical production numbers.
You really must take advantage when “Broadway Comes to Cleveland”. This is a feel good show that will leave you with a happy feeling long after you exit the theater.
The rest of the cast consists of Emily Afton, Bre Jackson and Brit West as the Divas who spend most of the production dangling on wires high above the stage while singing. Believe me, it takes your breath away and they do it with total poise. Another stand out is Chelsea Zeno as Bob’s “mail order bride” Cynthia who does an act with ping pong balls that the Chinese Olympic Ping Pong Team could only dream of.
Rounding out the cast is Nik Alexazander as Miss Understanding, Christy Faber as Marion, Shane Davis and Will B. Whitesell as Benji, Travis Taber as Farrah and Young Bernadette, Babs Rubenstein as Shirley, Taureen Everett as Jimmy, David Koch as Frank and an ensemble made up of Emily Afton, Nik Alexazander, John Capes, Andrew Chappelle, Alex Deleo, Taureen Everett, Christy Faber, Bre Jackson, Chris Klink, David Koch, Alex Ringler, Babs Rubenstein, Travis Taber, Brit West and Chelsea Zeno. This group goes through so many quick change costume changes it is amazing that they do not have burn marks all over their bodies by the end of the show.
The ever important behind the scenes folks (without whom the show cannot go on) are: Brian Thomson, Bus Concept and Production Design; Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner, Costume Design; Nick Schlieper, Original Broadway Lighting Design; Jonathan Deans and Peter Fitzgerald, Sound Design; Cassie Hanlon, Make-up Design; Nick Schlieper and Jonathan Spencer, National Tour Lighting Design; Stephen “Spud” Murphy and Charles Hull, Orchestration; Brent Frederick, Music Director; Talitha Fehn, Music Coordinator; Jeff Marder, North American Music Supervisor; Tom Bartlett, Production Stage Manager; Amy Katz and Courtney Davis, Tour Marketing and Press; Randall A. buck, Executive Producer; Roberta Roberts, General Manager; Mike Bauder and MB Productions NY, Technical Supervisor; David Hyslop, direction based on the original New York Production; Joshua Buscher, Choreography Recreated by; Stephen “Spud” Murphy, Music Supervision and Arrangements; Ross Coleman, Choreographer and Simon Philips, director.
The Priscilla Orchestra consisted of: Brent Frederick, Music Director/Keyboards; Wayne Green, Associate Music Director/Keyboards; Dave Stambaugh, Woodwinds; Walter White, Trumpet; James Nelson, Trombone; Jill Warren, Guitar; Michael Epperhart, Bass; Mark Pardy, Drums; Jeremy Meronuck, Percussion, Mark Pardy, Band Tech. and Talitha Fehr, Music Coordinator.
All performances of “Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical” Through January 27, 2013), will be held in the State Theatre (originally scheduled and ticketed to play the Palace). All other performances will begin at their normally scheduled times. All current ticket holders will receive new tickets by mail prior to their ticketed performance.
Priscilla Queen of the Desert the Musical will play the Palace Theatre at PlayhouseSquare for a total of 18 performances through January 27, 2013. Performances are Tuesday – Friday evenings at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 1:00 and 6:30 p.m. Tickets for all shows are currently on sale at the PlayhouseSquare Ticket Office (1519 Euclid Avenue in downtown Cleveland), online at playhousesquare.org or by calling 216-241-6000. Group orders of 15 or more may be placed by calling 216-664-6050.
Priscilla is part of the KeyBank Broadway Series at PlayhouseSquare. KeyBank is the title sponsor of the KeyBank Broadway Series at PlayhouseSquare. For more information, visit key.com.
This performance engagement is also part of the Smart Seats program at PlayhouseSquare that offers smart entertainment at a smart price. For more information on Smart Seats, visit playhousesquare.org/smartseats.
To enrich the experience of the theatergoers, the PlayhouseSquare Community Engagement & Education Department creates an in-depth online newsletter, the Buzz Extra, and presents free Broadway Buzz events to complement KeyBank Broadway Series shows. Broadway Buzz Pre-Show Talks, providing behind-the-scenes insight, are held in the Idea Center at PlayhouseSquare one hour prior to each performance of Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical.
On Thursday evening, January 24, guests are invited to stay in the theater for a post-show chat with members of the cast. Broadway Buzz events are made possible by the generous donors and sponsors that support PlayhouseSquare’s not-for-profit mission.
The Buzz Extra newsletter and more information about Broadway Buzz events and activities can be found online at playhousesquare.org/broadwaybuzz.
PLAYHOUSESQUARE is a not-for-profit performing arts center whose mission is presenting and producing a wide variety of quality performing arts, advancing arts education and creating a destination that is a superior location for entertainment, business and residential living, thereby strengthening the economic vitality of the region.