The Dolls outdo themselves with Priscilla (Review)
(Photo above: The leads of Priscilla; Chris Wright-Garcia as Tick (Mitzi Mitosis), Nicholas Handley as Adam (Felicia Jollygoodfellow), and Phillip Arran as Bernadette. Photo by Russell Maynor)
Many would find it interesting, or dreadful, that I would choose to see new productions on their opening night. But I learn a lot experiencing performances this way. Opening night is always filled with glitches, technical difficulties, and missed cues. But it all comes down to how the cast handles the situation. In terms of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, the Musical, the cast was ready for the challenge.
The Dolls’, Ken Ansloan, took on the monumental task of filling a dream to bring Priscilla to an Albuquerque stage. Becoming a regional debut for the show didn’t go unnoticed to Ansloan either. He and Co-Director Jessica Osbourne set out to find the perfect leads to carry this ensemble - and they succeeded.
Chris Wright-Garcia as Tick / Mitzi, brought a sense of pride and vulnerability, performing in his first ever musical. His angelic voice was a perfect pairing. With a cast so vibrant and colorful, Wright-Garcia held his ground. The moment between Tick (Mitzi) and Benji brought a tear to my eye, showcasing his comedic timing, sensibility and musical wit. I hope to see him in many more productions in the future.
Nicholas Handley is no stranger to the Albuquerque stage, but I have to say that the role of Adam / Felicia Jollygoodfellow fits him like a glove. The young, loud and mouthy member of the trio, Handley gave a stellar performance full of wit and sass - and that voice! Handley had many standout moments, but it was a scene when Adam witnesses the ugliness in this world that you truly see Handley’s depth and range. He’s got the look, the attitude - and legs.
Phillip Arran, who was part of the original West End cast of Priscilla, IS Bernadette. He lives and breathes this role. Arran has the bold and brazen attitude that brings this character to life. He was perfect in showing both sides of this character - a woman who has lived long enough to deal with the bull, but still has a softness for the things that she feels she might never obtain. Arran’s range when it comes to his vocal and theatrical performance is bar none. A true professional and a pleasure to see on stage.
There were other standouts that made the production worthwhile. Thane Kenny as Bob was an amazing talent. A true gentleman, Kenny provided Bob with that noble spirit that I remembered from the film. Joe Moncada as Miss Understanding set the tone for the show, letting the audience know they are in for a good time. Jessica Osbourne showed me more range than I thought was possible. She had me laughing through the whole show and if she wasn’t making me keel over in laughter, her voice, especially in “I Say A Little Prayer”, was making me give praise. One of the surprise moments was the cake scene - trust me, pure splendor. I was also excited to see a special appearance from Ken Ansloan himself in a well-thought out memory. Also, the addition of having a live orchestra to carry the music of the show was a refreshing change for The Dolls’ and paid off overall.
The set production was very creative. Not having the budget of a big Broadway show, the team came up with great ways to give the audience the “feel of Australia” and the iconic bus we remember. The choreography, developed for the dance levels they had, was simple, but it was noticeable that nerves got to some and others just didn’t have the steps down. The costumes were fabulous - as grand and over the top as I remember - and the lighting, aside from some difficulties, fit every scene. As for the vocals, aside from the technical difficulties (hello, opening night), the cast proved that this was their greatest strength. There were moments that The Divas and other cast members were timid and lost in sections, but the overall delivery was impressive.
When it comes down to it, The Dolls’ not only fulfilled a dream but executed it well. As the show continues through the month of July it will only get stronger and the cast will fuse into a well-oiled machine. This is one production that needs to be experience. Your evening will be full of surprises, dancing, laughter, music and love - and who doesn’t need more of that nowadays.
Priscilla Queen of the Desert, The Musical is running from July 1st - July 24th at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Tickets are available at http://www.nhccnm.org/event/dolls-present-priscilla-queen-desert-musical-rental/