Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, is here!

FOR its fifth major production, Resorts World Manila is offering the multi-award winning musical, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert with an all-Filipino cast led by Leo Tavarro Valdez, Jon Santos, and Red Concepcion. Set to premiere on May 9 at the Newport Performing Arts Theatre, Priscilla promises a funny, flamboyant and yet heartwarming story of friendship and love involving the lives of two drag queens and a transsexual.

(From left) Red Concepcion, Leo Tavarro Valdez,
and Jon Santos topbill Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Veteran actor Leo Tavarro Valdez plays the role of Tick and Mitzi, requiring him to dress up in drag for the very first time on stage. “It’s a joy and thrill doing Priscilla. It is the most interesting role to wear heavy make up and everything. It takes two hours and half to put this on (makeup and costume) so that it is quite a challenge, ” shares Valdez. Regarded as one of the most respected and versatile actors in the Philippine theater, Valdez is most known for his role as The Engineer in the 1997 Miss Saigon in London. As a multi-awarded performer, he recently bagged the Best Actor in a Musical award for The King and I at the 25th Aliw Awards.

Jon Santos welcomes his role since he will be portraying a role of a fictional character named Bernadette, a first for a performer known for his celebrity impersonations and stand up comedy. “This is new for me. I had the privilege of discovering the character. Along with my director, to whom I have entrusted my journey, we had to answer the basic questions like where does she come from, where does she go. It is very fulfilling for me.” With a career spanning three decades, Santos most notable impersonations were of Tita Gloring, Sherap Espada, Ate Vi, Ate Shawie, Korona Sanchez, Dionisia and Manny Sapakyaw, Senator Meeryam Defensive, among others.

Completing the trio of headliners is Red Concepcion whose body of work includes acting assignments in Cinderella, Equus, Little Mermaid, Into the Woods, Peter Pan and more. While he is excited for his role as Adam/Felicia, he is simply thrilled to work with Valdez and Santos. “I felt great when I heard that l would be sharing the stage with such legends. They were so welcoming and giving. I enjoy sitting with them and talking about their lustrous and long careers. I learned a lot from them.”

Other big names signed up for the cast are Michael Stuart Williams as Miss Understanding, Bituin Escalante, Lani Ligot and Timmy Canlas as The Divas, Pinky Marquez as Shirley, and Menchu Lauchengo-Yulo as Marion.

Playing the role of young Benjamin is Warren Saga with Guido Gatmaytan as an alternate. “He is the most open minded character. If if we are more like Benjamin, the world would be a better place. You have to watch the show to find out why,” says Jaime Del Mundo, director of Priscilla.

As an award-winning theater director, Del Mundo’s most notable works are Little Mermaid in 2009 and The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe in 2011. He co-wrote the original production of Rivalry with Ed Gatchalian and Joel Trinidad that earned him Best Stage Direction of a Musical award in the 26th Aliw Awards in 2013.

Another highlight of the show is its string of popular tunes from the ‘70s up to the ‘90s like Tina Turner’s “What’s love Got to Do With It?”, The Village People’s “Go West,” Alicia Bridges’s “I Love The Nightlife,” Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” Dionne Warwick’s “Shake Your Groove Thing,” Peaches and Herb’s “Shake Your Groove Thing,” plus other disco anthems. There are also Kylie Minogue medleys featuring hits “The Locomotion,” “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” “Confide In Me,” “Come Into My World,” “Spinning Around,” and more.

RWM production of Priscilla is also noteworthy of its glitzy wardrobe creations made by Chief Costume Designer Edgar San Diego. As integral part of the show, the wardrobe required original designs comparable to the Broadway’s level of wit, impact, and creativity. “We wanted to show the most striking colors and the most fabulous effects in our costumes,” shares San Diego. Aside from the leads, San Diego said that the costumes of the three Divas are among the costumes to look forward to. “I always love female trios like the Dreamgirls, Supremes and the like. For Priscilla, the Divas will sport fabulous costumes with a total of eight changes.”

Adapted from the 1994 film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the musical is written and directed by Stephan Elliott and renowned screenwriter and producer Allan Scott. On board a camper named Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the trio goes on a cross-country trip for a cabaret gig in a resort town in the remote Australian desert. There, the trio figure into mishaps, meets strange characters, and explores one another during dramatic and funny scenes.

The musical premiered in October 2006 in Sydney, Australia and opened on Broadway on March 20, 2011 to critical acclaim.

Its Sydney production won the 2008 Sydney Theatre Awards for Best Production Of A Musical and Judith Johnson Award for Best Performance by An Actor In A Musical for Tony Sheldon, while the West End production won the award for Best Costume Design. The production also coveted four awards at the 2010 Theatregoers’ Choice Awards and two awards at the UK Awards.

The Broadway production won both the Outer Critics Circle Award and Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design. On May 3, 2011, Pricilla received two Tony Award nominations: Best Actor in a Musical for Tony Sheldon and Best Costume Design for Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner, winning the said award.

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