Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Theatre Rhinoceros
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's reviews of Mother Night and The Roommate

Derek Miller, Rudy Guerrero, and Charles Peoples III
Photo by David Wilson
Theatre Rhinoceros is presenting a glitzy production of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I had never so many men in frocks on the local stage, fifteen to be exact. It is a "fab-u-lous" production that features 10 production numbers. What the show is really about is spectacle, thanks to John Fisher's direction, costumes by Robert Horek, and fantastic choreography by AeJay Mitchell. John Fisher went all out to present this Australian musical.

Priscilla faithfully follows the 2004 Australian film that featured Terence Stamp, Guy Pearce, and Hugh Weaving. The stage version made its debut at the Lyric Theatre in Sydney, Australia in October 2006 and transferred to London in March 2009 at Palace where we saw it. It finally made its Broadway debut in 2011 where I saw it again with Tony Sheldon repeating his role as Bernadette. This is as good as the London and Broadway productions.

Drag queen Tick, also known as Mitzi (Rudy Guerrero), travels to the outback in Australia in a battered bus named "Priscilla." His traveling companions are Adam, known as Felicia (Charles Peoples III), and transgender Bernadette (Darryl V Jones). These three drag artists brazenly "Go West" on a road trip to perform at a casino in Alice Springs. The ulterior motive of Tick is to reconnect with his young son who lives in Alice Springs. Bernadette needs a distraction for her grief after the death of her love, Trumpet, and Adam wants to unashamedly disrespect indigenous sacred land and climb to the top of Ayers Rock in a frock and sing. Along the way they have engine troubles, meet hostile locals who call them faggots, and sing gay anthems such "It's Raining Men", "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," and "I Will Survive".

Priscilla is most exciting in the big disco production numbers like "Venus," "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," Thank God I'm a Country Boy," and "I Will Survive" where the ensemble is invigorating, dancing in outlandish costumes.

Rudy Guerrero as Tick, Darryl V. Jones As Bernadette, and Charles People III as Adam rock as drag artists. They all have wonderful vocal cords, particularly in "MacArthur Park" and "The Journey" and especially Guerrero when he sees his 10-year-old son while singing vibrantly "I Say a Little Prayer." Henry Bayha charmingly plays the son Benji.

Cameron Weston as Bob the mechanic and Mary Kalita as Marion, Tick's wife, give excellent performances. Diogo Zavadski from the defunct Thrillpeddlers gives a first rate performance and he has a wonderful smile on this face while performing, particularly in "Thank God I'm a Country Boy." Stephen Kanaski as Miss Understanding has an effervescent singing voice in "What's Love Got to Do with It?" and "I Say a Little Prayer" at the beginning of the show. Kim Larson gives a splendid performances in numerous roles. The rest of cast, consisting of Patrick Brewer, Dominic De Quattro, Anna L. Johan, Crystal Lui, Derek Miller, Nicole Thordsen, and Crystal Why, capably fill the roles as dancers and drag artists.

Bottom Line: Priscilla is a wonderful camp jukebox musical. Unpretentious and exuberant with the most scrumptious costumes, it accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do, especially with Pride Week coming up.

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert runs through July 1, 2017, at the Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson, San Francisco. For tickets and information, call 1-800-838-3006 or visit Next up for Theatre Rhino is a reading of In the Heart of America on June 5 at the GLBT History Museum, 4127 18th Street, San Francisco, followed by Shakespeare's King Lear at Yerba Buena Garden Festival, Yerba Buena Center, San Francisco.

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