Reaction roundup: what the critics say about Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical

Reaction roundup: what the critics say about Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical

(Image: Joan Marcus)

After two weeks in previews, the sequin fest Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical officially opened last week at the Princess of Wales; the show is headed to Broadway, and critics’ expectations were high. Despite an opening-night mechanical snafu, the majority of reaction to the story of Australian drag queens travelling across the Outback in a pink tour bus was wildly enthusiastic. Here’s what reviewers loved and hated.

J. Kelly Nestruck of the Globe and Mail (3 stars out of 4) was won over but was disappointed by Priscillas middle-of-the road tone: “Priscilla tries to have it both ways—to be risqué and safe. There are plenty of rippling male torsos and innuendo-filled jokes (notably one about a foreskin and a double-stuffed Oreo), but at the same time, there isn’t so much as a single man-on-man peck.”

Over at the Toronto Sun, John Coulbourn employed mixed similes to highlight the musical’s strengths and weaknesses: “Shiny as a zirconia sunburst, and deep as a dime, Priscilla turns theatrical convention into theatrical confection at every turn—a show that gives you a good time but still makes you think you might want to take her home to meet mama anyway.” While he was taken by the flash, Coulbourn was left cold by a lack of substance: “Anyone expecting nuance or subtlety should know to avoid drag shows, in much the same way they no doubt avoided Classic Comics.”

Richard Ouzounian of the Toronto Star (4 stars out of 4) fell head over heels: “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.”

Robert Cushman of the National Post was struck by and particularly taken with Aussie actor Tony Sheldon‘s portrayal of Bernadette, an aging post-op transvestite whose glory days are behind her. Says Cushman, “Sheldon plays her with superb comic and pathetic timing, has one great spoken moment of surprise basso profundo and goes through his numbers with physical and vocal panache, shot through with delicacy. This is his show.”

This Priscilla rocks even if the bus doesn’t roll [Globe and Mail]
‘Priscilla, Queen’ musical is aces [Toronto Sun]
Toe-tapping honey of a show is no drag [Toronto Star]
• Robert Cushman: Sydney’s soul sisters make Priscilla’s trip in the desert worthwhile [National Post]