BWW Interviews: PRISCILLA’s Canadian Queens
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by Kelly Cameron
Priscilla Queen of the Desert is currently enjoying a very successful pre-Broadway engagement in Toronto as it ramps up to make its big Broadway debut in February of 2011 at The Palace Theatre. Toronto has embraced this show whole-heartedly, and has also embraced the fabulously talented cast. I had the opportunity to attend opening night and see the reaction that the show was getting first-hand. Every night it would seem that audiences are falling in love with the heart behind all the glitz and glamour. And while Toronto will certainly be sad to see the show go, we are thrilled that there are some Canadians in the production who are getting the opportunity to travel to NYC and be with Priscilla when she makes her Broadway debut. I had the chance to talk with some the Canadians in the cast (Thom Allison, David Lopez, J. Elaine Marcos and Susan Dunstan) about what the show has meant to them and how they feel about making the move to Broadway.
One of the most exciting things about covering Priscilla in Toronto has been the fact that it has been so long since our city has had a pre-Broadway production. Once upon a time Toronto was a hub for pre-Broadway tryouts, but lately that position seems to be being filled by Chicago, San Francisco and Off-Broadway Theatres. For people who love theatre and the arts and want to see as much as possible in our city, this has been a bit disheartening.
For those who don’t already know, Priscilla Queen of the Desert was originally destined to be a Canadian production, based in Toronto with a Canadian cast. Most of the Canadians in the cast auditioned and were “hired” over a year and a half ago for a production to be based here, which eventually fell through. Luckily for the audience, when the decision was made to have Priscilla debut on Broadway with a tryout in Toronto, many of the Canadians were asked back to final callbacks in NYC to see if they would be included in the production. The result is a well rounded and diverse cast, which is truly filled with “best of the best” talent from across the United States, Canada and even Australia (thanks to the incredible Tony Sheldon).
When speaking with the Canadians in the cast, they are eager to discuss their first experiences auditioning for the show and spoke about how happy they are to still be included now that it has been mostly cast with NYC talent. David Lopez talks about how he almost didn’t return for final callbacks in NYC due to the pressure and sheer volume of people trying to be a part of it, but likened it to “playing the lottery. You can’t win if you don’t buy a ticket.” J. Elaine Marcos actually auditioned in NYC as that is where she was living and working and spoke about “how many NYC people were so eager to have a shot at being in this incredible show. By casting in Canada and the United States they were really able to get the best of the best.”
So do our local boys and girls notice things about the audience and the show that their American castmates perhaps don’t pick up on? From the sounds of things the response is overwhelmingly positive every night, no matter where you are coming from. Thom Allison says that “it’s almost like a rock concert and the audience loves us from the very beginning. The best thing we keep hearing is people saying that they had a blast but were truly very moved.” Susan Dunstan adds that “by the end of the show the audience is roaring and much more riled up than we could have ever expected.” And David Lopez sums it up by adding “the audience has been nothing short of ecstatic, and they seem genuinely gutted that the show isn’t staying longer.”
Indeed, Toronto is gutted that it can’t keep Priscilla beyond January 2nd. The show has been great for the city and many people are going over and over again, in order to have fun, let loose and re-experience some of the “heart” at the core of the show. J. Elaine Marcos talks about how “it’s an opportunity for the wallflowers to get to have a bit of fun. They can dance in their seats and not worry about whether they have rhythm or how they look because no one is looking at them. No one is judging. Everyone can just have a great time.”
However, Broadway beckons. The Palace Theatre is waiting to welcome the entire cast of Priscilla Queen of the Desert to its new home, and there are only four weeks left to catch the show. After that, the entire cast will travel down to NYC to begin getting ready for the big Broadway debut. For most of the Canadians (save for J. Elaine Marcos who has worked on Broadway before) this is also their Broadway debut. And they couldn’t be more thrilled. David Lopez talks about “the thrilling honour of getting to continue with the show to NYC and make my Broadway debut” and Susan Dunstan remarked how “it just doesn’t get any more exciting than this.” And while Toronto is sad to see them leave, we will wish them luck, kiss the glitter goodbye and send them on their way – knowing that they will represent Toronto and Canada in only the best of light with their amazing spirits and talents. . As Thom Allison says “Bring it on! I can’t wait. This will be a bit of hometown kids representing in NYC.”
When and Where?
Priscilla Queen of the Desert
The Princess of Wales Theatre
Performances until January 2nd, 2011
Tuesday – Saturday at 8PM
Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 2PM
Tickets can be purchased online at www.mirvish.com or be phone at 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333
For more information visit www.priscillathemusical.com.