My husband and our two children (13 and 10) were lucky enough to have a chance to attend Ottawa’s Tototoo Theatre’s grand production of the iconic Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at the University of Ottawa’s Alumni Theatre on Friday, May 26. My father, at 81, a veteran of live stage performance in Ottawa and London, England raved about this show and offered to pay for our tickets. We took him up on it.
I knew my thirteen year-old daughter would love it, what with the costumes, the rude language and obvious sexual innuendos. I wasn’t sure about my ten year-old son. But rather than getting a sitter for him I figured there wasn’t anything that offensive in the show beyond some colourful language and there was everything right with it. I wanted both my children to be exposed to a wonderful story about acceptance and inclusion, friendship and alternate kinds of parenting. In fact, until I read the summary online, I’d forgotten about the most touching and important part of the story – that Mitzi/Tick is traveling to Alice Springs to see his son and former wife in the hope that he can be a father to his boy.
As expected, there weren’t many other children in attendance (unfortunately) but both my kids thoroughly enjoyed the performance. From the opening number to the lively finale, they were rapt and I’m sure it opened their eyes to the joy of being true to oneself and celebrating life in all its varying expressions. The costumes and musical numbers were wonderful and the choreography inventive and magical. The performances were excellent and each actor captured the spirit and uniqueness of his/her role.
I was particularly impressed by Réjean Mayer-Dinelle’s take on the transgendered Bernadette, Kraig-Paul Proulx as Tick/Mitzi, and Cooper Dunn as little Benji, as well as Jamie Rice‘s performance as the sexy and irreverent Adam/Felicia.
Mayer-Dinelle combined the perfect cocktail of cynicism, fierce loyalty and vulnerability in his character. Bernadette arguably has some of the best lines in the play and the movie and Réjean delivered them with perfect voice and comedic timing.
Proulx brought a wonderful innocence and sincerity to the part of Tick/Mitzi and his interactions with Dunn as Benji were extremely poignant.
Jamie Rice as Adam/Felicia played his part with perfection and poise. As the younger of the three “Queens” he combined just the right amount of sauciness, immaturity and youthful optimism in his role.
Young Cooper Dunn will be an actor to watch as he grows and tackles more roles. His performance was beautiful and real, and I was struck by his gorgeous vocals and natural acting ability. To perform at such a young age in a show as nuanced and important as this one is to be commended and I’m sure he had an absolute blast.
The venue at the University of Ottawa Alumni Theatre was small but accommodating. The seating in the theatre provided a great view from all levels and the lobby contained multiple seating areas. There were baked goods and drinks available for purchase at intermission and the only complaint I have is that only one out of two toilets in the women’s washroom were functional so there was a longer-than-normal line-up at the break.
We were informed during the introduction that Tototoo will no longer be a nomadic theatre group but will be firmly established at Ottawa’s well-known Gladstone Theatre for its 2017/18 season. Upcoming productions include Bent by Martin Sherman in October 2017, The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer in March 2018, and My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding by Irene Sankoff and David Hein in June 2018.
Tickets/packages can be purchased at The Gladstone.