Broadway musicians to protest pre-recorded music in ‘Priscilla’


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Since the musical ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ opened in March at the Palace Theatre in New York, musicians on Broadway have been voicing their unhappiness with the decision to use a combination of live and pre-recorded music in the show. On Thursday, musicians and other supporters will protest the musical starting 7 p.m. outside the Palace.

The protest is being organized by the Save Live Music on Broadway campaign, a coalition of composers, performers and other live-music professionals. The campaign itself is the creation of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, a union that has waged an aggressive public-relations war against the musical in recent weeks.


Producers of ‘Priscilla’ have ‘drastically cut the theatre’s live orchestra and forced the remaining musicians to play along with a recording,’ said campaign organizers in a statement sent Thursday.

[Updated, 1:52 p.m.: A spokesman for the show has provided comments from producers. Producers of ‘Priscilla’ said in a statement that there no plans to change the musical composition of the show. ‘The orchestrations were created more than five years ago and have been performed in productions in Sydney, Aukland, London and Toronto for thousands of performances prior to Broadway,’ they said.

The producers maintained that there ‘are elements in the sound of the ‘Priscilla’ score that cannot be recreated by live performance. These are the recorded manipulated sounds that accompany the live musicians who play every performance of the show.’]

The musical, based on the hit 1994 Australian movie, follows a group of drag queens who travel to the outback in a large bus. Reviews of the show have been largely lukewarm to negative, and the production was shut out of the best-musical category in the Tony nominations.

At the box office, ‘Priscilla’ is doing respectable business, having played to nearly 87% capacity in the most recent week. Among the show’s many producers is actress-singer Bette Midler.

The use of pre-recorded music in ‘Priscilla’ is an anomaly on Broadway, where live music is still the norm.



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— David Ng