ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar
Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Based on the film “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” by Stephan Elliot
Featuring legendary cabaret chanteuse Honey West as Bernadette
and Josh Houghton as Tick/Mitzi
Now Playing Through September 11, 2022
By Guest Critic Catherine Hellmann
Credit for All Production Photos, Brett Beiner Photography
“It’s raining men! Hallelujah!” So opens this exuberant production. The audience was as stoked as the cast on opening night. After a crazy/frustrating couple years, delays, and rumors that the historic Mercury Theater was closing, Priscilla was finally here! Hallelujah, indeed.
“Hey, I know a lot of these songs!” declared my excited, easygoing sister. Of all the theater I have been dragging her to (like 3-5 shows a week), Teresa proclaimed this fun musical was one of her favorites. It is a crowd-pleaser with a very familiar score, such as “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” “I Say a Little Prayer,” “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” and “Shake Your Groove Thing.” The rendition of the absurd “MacArthur Park” of the “cake left out in the rain” is an absolute hoot.
I was excited to finally see the famous Honey West perform; she is perfect as the mature drag queen, Bernadette. Josh Houghton is wonderful as Tick/Mitzi. And Shaun White as Adam/Felicia is hilarious and bitchy; his lip-synch of “Sempre Libre” from Verdi’s opera La traviata is a highlight with his facial expressions and gestures. (Boy, I hate when drag queens have better legs than I do…) The three “divas” who act as a chorus are also standouts, especially Jessica Brooke Seals’ vocals. (“How do they change their costumes so fast?” my sis marveled.) Ayana Strutz has a dance number that made the audience gasp at her astounding flexibility!
“Priscilla” is actually the name of the RV which the trio of drag queens take on their long journey. The scenic design by Jonathan Berg-Einhorn is truly inspired. The small stage of Mercury is limited, but the pink RV divided into decorated parts is clever and imaginative. How do you find an RV full of drag queens? “Follow the glitter.”
The costumes by Robert Kuhn must be mentioned. (Ensembles in the audience made for great people-watching as well.) No diva worth her high heels can be complete without fabulous gowns. One of Mitzi’s dresses is covered in flip flops, which was my favorite. And the wigs by Keith Ryan are also inventive and fun.
Although this is an amusing and outrageous show, there are poignant moments and a strong message of acceptance. One of the drag queens asks why do they put up with insults and abuse every night? “So we feel like real women?” Hmmm…they get it. And there are also unabashed examples of prejudice and gay bashing in the show which remind us of the courage required to be so open about their “True Colors.”
So, hobble on your stilettos and drape those feather boas and head out to catch “Priscilla.” You won’t want to miss this wild ride.
Catherine Hellmann is an educator, mom of educators, and theater junkie. She also loves reading and Chicago. And reading about Chicago.
Mercury Theater Artistic Director Christopher Chase Carter, Managing Director Kristi J. Martens and Executive Producers Walter Stearns and Eugene Dizon announce the cast and creative team for the much-anticipated production of the summer, Priscilla Queen of the Desert. The musical features a book by Stephan Elliot and Allan Scott and is based on the film “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” by Stephan Elliot. This production is directed and choreographed by Artistic Director Christopher Chase Carter, with music direction by Executive Producer Eugene Dizon. Priscilla, Queen of the Desert runs July 15 – September 11, 2022 at Mercury Theater Chicago, 3745 N. Southport Avenue.
The cast of Priscilla Queen of the Desert is led by legendary cabaret chanteuse Honey West as Bernadette and Josh Houghton as Tick/Mitzi and features Heather J. Beck (Diva, US Marion, US Shirley), Lydia Burke (Diva, US Cynthia, US Miss Understanding), John Cardone (Ensemble, US Bernadette), Marcus Jackson (Jimmy, Frank, Ensemble, US Bob, Dance Captain), Brittany D. Parker (Marion, Shirley, Ensemble, US Diva), Darren Patin (Miss Understanding, Ensemble, US Adam/Felicia), Jason Richards (Bob, Ensemble), Jessica Brooke Seals (Diva), Gabriel Solis (Benji), and Ayana Strutz (Cynthia, Ensemble), Shaun White (Adam/Felicia) and Matthew Weidenbener (Young Bernadette).
The creative team for Priscilla Queen of the Desert includes Christopher Chase Carter (director/choreographer), Eugene Dizon (music director), Jonathan Berg-Einhorn (scenic and props designer), Bob Kuhn (costume designer), Carl Wahlstrom (sound designer), Max Maxim (video designer), Rachel West (lighting supervisor), Will Hughes (scenic supervisor), Kathy Logelin (dialect director) and Keely Vasquez (casting associate). The production stage manager is Kristi J. Martens and the assistant stage manager is Katie-Sarah Phillips.
Based on the smash-hit movie, Priscilla is the heartwarming, uplifting adventure of a glamorous Sydney-based performing trio who take their show to the middle of the Australian outback. They hop aboard a battered old bus (nicknamed Priscilla) searching for love and friendship and end up finding more than they ever imagined. With a hit parade of dance floor favorites including “It's Raining Men," "I Will Survive," "Hot Stuff," "Boogie Wonderland," "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," and "I Love The Nightlife" this wildly fresh and funny musical is a journey to the heart of fabulous!
Tickets for Priscilla Queen of the Desert, priced $39-$85, are on sale now at the box office, 3745 N. Southport Avenue in Chicago, www.MercuryTheaterChicago.com.
More About Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Book by: Stephan Elliot and Allan Scott
Based on the film “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” by Stephan Elliot
Directed and Choreographed by: Artistic Director Christopher Chase Carter
Music Direction by: Executive Producer Eugene Dizon
Featuring: Honey West (Bernadette) and Josh Houghton (Tick/Mitzi), as well as Heather J. Beck (Diva, US Marion, US Shirley), Lydia Burke (Diva, US Cynthia, US Miss Understanding), John Cardone (Ensemble, US Bernadette), Daniel Hurst (Young Bernadette, Ensemble, US Tick/Mitzi), Marcus Jackson (Jimmy, Frank, Ensemble, US Bob, Dance Captain), Brittany D. Parker (Marion, Shirley, Ensemble, US Diva), Darren Patin (Miss Understanding, Ensemble, US Adam/Felicia), Jason Richards (Bob, Ensemble), Jessica Brooke Seals (Diva), Gabriel Solis (Benji), and Ayana Strutz (Cynthia, Ensemble). Casting for the role of Adam/Felicia will be announced at a later date.
Creative Team: Christopher Chase Carter (director/choreographer), Eugene Dizon (music director), Jonathan Berg-Einhorn (scenic and props designer), Bob Kuhn (costume designer), Carl Wahlstrom (sound designer), Max Maxim (video designer), Rachel West (lighting supervisor), Will Hughes (scenic supervisor), Kathy Logelin (dialect director) and Keely Vasquez (casting associate). The production stage manager is Kristi J. Martens and the assistant stage manager is Daniel J. Hanson.
Dates: July 15 – September 11, 2022
Wednesdays: 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays: 7:30 p.m.
Fridays: 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays: 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Sundays: 2 p.m.
Location: Mercury Theater Chicago
3745 N. Southport Avenue, Chicago
Tickets: $39 – $85
Box Office: 3745 N. Southport Avenue in Chicago
COVID PROTOCOL: Mercury Theater Chicago follows the CDC and State of Illinois recommendations about maintaining a COVID safe environment. Any interaction with the public poses an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19. By visiting Mercury Theater Chicago, it is understood that everyone voluntarily assumes all risks related to exposure.
All patrons will have to wear a mask throughout the performance when not actively eating or drinking regardless of vaccination status.
About Mercury Theater Chicago
The beautifully renovated Mercury Theater Chicago is in the heart of the Southport Corridor at 3745 North Southport Avenue, within a sophisticated neighborhood of restaurants and boutiques just steps from Wrigley Field. A delightful destination, Mercury Theater Chicago is a live-theater seating 280 people, adjoining Venus Cabaret Theater (seating 80).
The building that houses the Mercury opened in 1912 as a silent film nickelodeon, named The Blaine Theatre after actor and former Senator and Secretary of State James G. Blaine. The Blaine became obsolete when talking pictures became popular nationwide in 1928. The building served a variety of uses until 1994, when it was purchased by theater producer Michael Cullen and transformed into a live theatre, named the Mercury Theatre.
In 2010 the building was sold again and reopened as Mercury Theater Chicago under the direction of Walter Stearns, a veteran theater director and producer. Mercury Theater Chicago's second performance space, Venus Cabaret Theater, offers a unique intimate theatrical experience complemented by specialty cocktails. Mercury Theater Chicago is thrilled to be part of the city's vibrant theatre community, boasting record-setting long runs, employing hundreds of artists and recognized with dozens of award nominations. Mercury Theater Chicago's team includes Christopher Chase Carter (Artistic Director), Walter Stearns and Eugene Dizon (Executive Producers), Kristi J. Martens (Managing Director) and Honey West (Cabaret Director). Visit www.MercuryTheaterChicago.com.