Friday, October 9, 2015


The feathers, the finery, the anthems, the heart -- "Priscilla Queen of the Desert" couldn't be more fun, says critic Toby Zinman.



By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer 

It’s like going to a great party with lots of Champagne: Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical is so much fun, so spectacular to look at, with so many danceable songs, that we all just bounced out of the Academy of Music on Tuesday night. 

Based on the 1994 Australian movie The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, the musical follows three  friends, all drag queens, from Sydney to Alice Springs where, among other things, they finally climb Ayer’s Rock. Priscilla is the name of the jalopy of a bus that takes Tick to see the wife and son nobody knew he had. The show is not only a blinged-up razzle-dazzler full of feathers and sparkles , but it’s also full of heart and important lessons about tolerance and love and friendship. 

Wade McCollum as Tick projects warmth and solidity underneath the spangled eyelashes, and his reunion with his son is genuinely touching without being cloying. Scott Willis, middle-aged and totally femme, falls in love with Bob (Joe Hart). the mechanic who rescues Priscilla. Bryan West is the youngest and cutest and silliest of the trio. 

The costumes and wigs are beyond fabulous (Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner won the Tony), the abs are beyond ripped, the singing and the dancing are boffo Broadway. 

The songs are lipsynching divadom’s favorites: “It’s Raining Men,” “I Will Survive,” “True Colors,” “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”  In a setup of sheer bliss, a cake is left out overnight in the rain, and Tick pounces on the opportunity, letting loose with a gleeful rendition of “MacArthur Park.” 

The contingent in the balcony waving their red feather boas while paper streamers rained down on all our heads definitely had the right idea.


Academy of Music, Broad & Locust Streets. Through March 3. Tickets $20-$100. Information: 215-731-3333, or,

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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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