Will ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ reign at the Tony Awards?

The latest movie to get the tuner treatment is “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” which opened at the Palace Theater Sunday to mixed notices. However, with the first four of this season’s nine new musicals already shuttered, this show could well contend at the Tony Awards.

There were some good reviews with Elisabeth Vincentelli (New York Post) calling it “a shamelessly feel-good show.” And Chris Jones (Chicago Tribune) deemed it to be “a far from revelatory but irresistibly enjoyable and big-hearted confection.”

However, many of the critics carped about its campiness. For New York Times scribe Charles Isherwood, “this hyperactively splashy show wants so desperately to give audiences a gaudy good time that the results are oddly enervating.” But Thom Geier (EW) conceded, “there’s a dance-party atmosphere that helps compensate for the show’s plot implausibilities and clunkier moments.”

Olivier Award nominee Tony Sheldon reprises the Terence Stamp role of the aging drag queen while Tony Award nominee Will Swenson (“Hair”) has the Hugo Weaving part and Nick Adams steps into Guy Pearce‘s pumps. The musical is written by Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott with Simon Phillips directing and Jerry Mitchell overseeing the dances created by Ross Coleman.

The 1994 film version won an Oscar for its elaborate costumes designed on a shoe-string budget by Lizzy Gardiner and Tim Chappel. The pair, who had a bigger budget this time round, took home the Olivier Award for last year’s London production.

Among the producers of the new musical is Bette Midler. Were it to win the top prize at the Tony Awards, she would have her first competitive Tony, to join the honorary one she received in 1974 for her one-woman show. Back then, the Tonys feted her for “for adding lustre to the Broadway season.”

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