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The Return of Palm Springs Nightlife

desert rose playhouse

The Show Must Go On

Live Entertainment Thrives in Palm Springs

By Kevin Perry

What’s your favorite opening act? Is it a comedian, a house band, or a gregarious emcee who outlines the splendor you are about to experience?

For us, the ideal prologue to any live event is the excited murmur of the audience. You may hear someone whisper in the next row about a performer they recognize in the program or a song they just can’t wait to hear. The anticipation is palpable and the enthusiasm is inescapable.

Well, get ready to feel that rush of expectation once again, because theater, music and a thriving Palm Spring nightlife are back and better than ever.

Welcome Desert Rose Playhouse

This is Palm Springs newest nightlife venue. “It’s been really good to be open again,” narrates Matthew McLean, Managing Director at Desert Rose Playhouse. “Everybody has been very hungry for this after being closed for nearly 15 months. It’s been kind of surreal and heartwarming and everything else to actually have people around again and watching shows and doing what we love.”

Desert Rose blooms from the grounds where Zelda’s Nightclub once stood. McLean and company are producing a full roster of campy, comedic theatrical events in their new home at 611 S. Palm Canyon. “The building has always been a nightclub, so it’s now a different animal,” McLean explains. It makes a good addition to the Palm Springs nightlife.

desert rose theater

“It was very interesting walking in with the broker, walking into this dark nightclub and he says, ‘Hold on, I’m going to go flip on the lights.’ And he starts flipping on breakers and everything just started popping on and coming to life again, all frozen in time.”

With a hushed sense of awe, McLean continues, “It was literally like they just closed the night before, only it had been sitting there for a year and a half.”

Before finding their new home, the theater group was struggling to survive. “We had to refund a whole bunch of money for tickets and we didn’t get any refunds for our show that we were putting on,” recounts McLean. “So we lost a bunch of money. We were down to a few hundred dollars in the bank account, and we were just going to pack everything up out of our old space. Throw it all in storage and hunker down.  and just put it in storage and kind of hunker down. And I had actually been looking at this nightclub since it closed.”

desert rose theater

Studio 54 meets Moulin Rouge

His interest quickly went from fascination to determination in this new Palm Springs nightlife venue.

“We have spent the last year taking everything down, cleaning, painting, and putting everything up to suit our needs. That included a gigantic LED wall that we moved across the room to the other side, behind the stage, and all this crazy nightclub lighting that swirls around and does all kinds of things.”

Painting a picture with his effervescent tone, McLean elaborates, “We have a 4K camera that records what’s going on the stage live, it’s fed to monitors throughout the building so that people backstage, even people who need to use the restroom can see on a TV in the restroom what’s going on on the stage. It’s just one of those quirky, little fun things that we’ve done to make this a different theater experience. We don’t want to be a regular theater. We’ve often said it’s like Studio 54 meets Moulin Rouge, and it’s got a quirky edge to it with a fun gay twist.”

Matthew McLean and his partner Robbie Wayne are bringing their dreams to reality and transforming Zelda’s nightclub into theatrical manna, one performance at a time. Their crowd funding outreach yielded $20,000 in just ten days, making it possible for the proverbial show to go on.

desert rose theater

A Strong Community Matters

“Never underestimate the power of the community. It’s just been amazing,” beams McLean. “They want this as bad as we do. And it’s one of those things, we’ve looked at each other throughout this process and we’ve decided this is bigger than us. Almost a year ago we all realized that this is bigger than us and failure is just simply not an option… There was no way we could just throw our hands in the air and say, ‘Oh, well, we tried.’ It wasn’t even a thought. We just kept powering through it.”

Summoning all of his earnest appreciation, McLean delivers an encore.

“All I can say to the community is just wow, thank you. Because we simply could have not done this without the donations and the support and also the volunteers, people that have volunteered their time to come in and do things like paint and clean. And it’s just such a big task and it’s been so great to have the support and the physical manpower of the community behind us.”

desert rose theater

Live Entertainment Roundup

Theatergoers are also rallying behind the wildly popular PS Underground, an all-consuming consumption experience in the Palm Springs nightlife scene. The maestros responsible for these super-secret shows meld sights, sounds and tastes into an industrial strength blender, serving up an unparalleled multicourse meal paired with a gourmet menu and bespoke cocktails.

mod themed dinner

If you’re searching for family friendly entertainment, all roads lead to Palm Canyon Theater. They’re opening their curtain on a new season of mischief, mirth and musicals galore! This nonprofit troupe is located firmly in the heart of downtown and beats to a gleefully creative drum.

For adult fare, Copa Nightclub is your ticket to transcendence. Savage DJs slay the scene, Latin queens and kings rule Thursday nights, and drag performers kick off the weekend with impossible stilettos and unforgettable gusto.

Weekend Whimsy

Now that work is in your rearview mirror, crank up the good times! Sunday Jams at Melvyn’s provide the perfect soundtrack to your Palm Springs weekend.


Throughout the weekend, Oscar’s is the place to be (and to be seen!). From their ultra glam cabaret shows to the go-go excess of Mimosa Men to the fierce attitude of the Bitchiest Brunch, live entertainment flows through Oscar’s. And do NOT miss the infamous T-Dance every Sunday afternoon/evening/beyond.

Stay Tuned

One of Oscar’s enduring collaborators is Palm Canyon Roadhouse, a rustic blast of revelry and good ol’ fashioned live shows. As our city reopens responsibly and safely, we’re eager to see the next big acts rocking the Roadhouse stage.

We are also thrilled to welcome irreverence back to our lives, specifically the bawdy shenanigans of Michael Holmes at Purple Room. Regular shows roar back to life in August 2021, so book early and be prepared for anything!

Our collective breath is bated for the next wave of esteem at Annenberg Theater. Whether it will be music, comedy, drama or a curious concoction of all of the above, this space yearns for audiences to return.


The future of Palm Springs nightlife and live entertainment shines a spotlight on the limitless creativity of our citizenry. But why wait for the future when you can book your tickets now? Take a page from the robust schedule at Desert Rose Playhouse and snag your seats before they sell out!


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