Desperate Measures (musical)
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Desperate Measures Musical

Desperate Measures
Desperate Measures poster art.png
Promotional artwork
MusicDavid Friedman
LyricsPeter Kellogg
BookPeter Kellogg
SettingAmerican Old West, late 1800s
BasisMeasure for Measure
PremiereMay 1, 2004: Irving, Texas, U.S.

Desperate Measures is a musical comedy with music by David Friedman and book and lyrics by Peter Kellogg which is currently playing at New World Stages for an open-ended engagement, directed by Bill Castellino. The show won acclaim with Drama Desk Awards for Best Music and Best Lyrics, and Outer Critics Circle and Off-Broadway Alliance Awards for Best Musical from its run at the York Theatre in 2017.


The show is based on William Shakespeare's comedy Measure for Measure.[1] The plot and casting is streamlined with equivalents only for Angelo (Governor Otto Von Richterhenkenpflichtgetruber),[2] Isabella (Susanna/Sister Mary Jo), Claudio (Johnny Blood), Duke Vincentio (Sheriff), a composite of Juliet and Mariana (Bella Rose), and a drunken priest (Friar Peter is the clergyman with the most lines in Shakespeare's play, at seven[3]), and is set in Arizona Territory at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. "Desperate Measures" marks the fifth collaboration between Peter Kellogg and David Friedman. Kellogg penned the rhyming couplets in order that they may be more accessible to the audience as well as humorous. Kellogg stated; "It's Jewish country music" and "It's my brand of that [style of music], which makes it accessible."[4].


Act I

Johnny Blood, a hotheaded young cowboy, killed a man in a bar fight for a saloon girl Bella Rose, and is sentenced to death ("The Ballad of Johnny Blood"). Knowing that Johnny killed in self-defense, the sheriff decides to ask Johnny's sister Susanna, a novice nun - Sister Mary Jo, to plead with the governor for Johnny's life ("That's Just How It Is"). The governor, who sees strict law and order as his political legacy ("Some Day They Will Thank Me"), ignores her plead ("Look in Your Heart"), but suggests exchanging Susanna's chastity for Johnny's freedom.

Seeing the dilemma Susanna faces, Johnny argues "It's Good to Be Alive". The sheriff suggests a plan to switch Susanna with a saloon girl after the dark ("It Doesn't Hurt to Try").

They find Bella Rose, who agrees to participate for free because she is in love with Johnny ("It's Getting Hot in Here"). The sheriff and Susanna coach Bella to walk and smile like a nun, while Bella teaches Susanna to lighten up ("The Way That You Feel"). Alone, Sheriff wonders about the feeling he has grown towards Susanna ("Stop There").

At night, Susanna goes to the governor's house, only to switch with Bella after the light is off. Everyone wonders how their lives are changed "In the Dark".

Act II

The next morning, Susanna visits the governor for Johnny's pardon, but he confesses that he has fallen in love with her ("What a Night!" - "About Last Night"), and threatens to still have Johnny hanged if Susanna does not agree to marry him the next day.

Bella Rose visits Johnny in the jail, who becomes jealous of her sleeping with another guy, even though it is for saving his life ("Just for You").

The sheriff comes up with a new idea. He has the governor sign a new agreement: if Sister Mary Jo agrees to marry him, Johnny will go free ("What a Day"). At the same time, he has Susanna telegram the abbey to allow Bella to become a nun, also named Sister Mary Jo, to marry the governor. As plan B, he also leaves Johnny a key and a horse to escape. Susanna realizes her feeling for this man ("What is This Feeling").

Everyone wonders what will happen ("Life Takes You by Surprise"). The governor barges into the dressing room, almost exposing the plan, which is only saved by the identical wedding dresses and some quick wit. Susanna and Bella decide they should have fun with the fake wedding ("It's a Beautiful Day"). Instead of escaping to Mexico, Johnny stops the ceremony. The sheriff finally gets the upper hand, and the wedding becomes the happy ending for both couples ("Finale").


The musical premiered at Lyric Stage in Irving, Texas on April 30 and closed May 15, 2004.[5] It was staged and directed by Cheryl Denson, with musical direction by James McQuillen, scenic design by Wade Giampa (1950-2009[6]), lighting design by Susan A. White, and costume design by Billie Boston. This was the third David Friedman premiere at the Lyric which had previously produced the United States mainland premiere of King Island Christmas in 1999 and Listen to My Heart: The Songs of David Friedman in 2001.[7] The Irving, Texas production featured; Jimmy Nelson as Johnny Blood, Dara Whitehead as Susanna/Sister Mary Jo, Ron Gonzales as the sheriff, Brad M. Johnson as the priest, Bradley Campbell as the governor and Gina Biancardi as Bella Rose.[7]

The musical opened at the New York Music Theater Festival on September 12, 2006, and ran through September 24 at the 45th Street Theatre in New York City. The New York cast included Merwin Foard, Patrick Garner, Ginifer King, Jenny Powers, Max von Essen, and Nick Wyman.[8]

In 2012, a rhyming verse version of Desperate Measures was performed at The Spirit of Broadway Theater in Norwich, Ct. The show ran from June 27 to July 29. It was directed by Brett Bernardini, with choreography by Christine Snitken-Bouley, lighting design by Greg Solomon, scenic design by Mike Billings, sound design by Steven Hinchey, and musical direction by Dan Brandl.[9] The production featured Michael Sullivan, Aline O'Connor, Corrado Alicata, Johnny Marion, Keith Johnson and Shauna Goodgold.[10]

The Original Off-Broadway production premiered[11] at the York Theatre in New York City on September 19, 2017, running until December 31, 2017.[12] Due to popular demand, the show season was extended three times.[13] The cast featured Emma Degerstedt as Susanna/Sister Mary Jo, Gary Marachek as Father Morse, Lauren Molina as Bella Rose, Conor Ryan as Johnny Blood, Peter Saide as Sheriff Green and Nick Wyman as Governor von Richterhenkenpflichtgetruber with Anthony Festa, Celia Hottenstein and Tom Souhrada as Standbys. [14] An original cast album of this production was recorded in December 2017 and released by Sony Masterworks Broadway.[15][16]

The production transferred to Stage 4 at New World Stages on June 13, 2018, in an open-ended run, featuring Gary Marachek, Lauren Molina, Sarah Parnicky, Conor Ryan, Peter Saide, and Nick Wyman with Anthony Festa, Celia Hottenstein, and Tom Souhrada. [17]

The original casts are as follows:

Character Irving (2004) New York (2006)[8] Norwich (2012) Original Off-Broadway Cast, York Theatre (2017)[18][15][19] Off-Broadway Cast, New World Stages (2018)[20][21]
Johnny Blood Jimmy Nelson Max von Essen Michael Sullivan Conor Ryan Conor Ryan
Susanna/Sister Mary Jo Dara Whitehead Ginifer King Aline O'Connor Emma Degerstedt Sarah Parnicky
Sheriff Ron Gonzales Merwin Foard Corrado Alicata Peter Saide Peter Saide
Priest Brad M. Johnson Patrick Garner Johnny Marion Gary Marachek Gary Marachek
Governor Bradley Campbell Nick Wyman Keith Johnson Nick Wyman Nick Wyman
Bella Rose Gina Biancardi Jenny Powers Shauna Goodgold Lauren Molina Lauren Molina
Standby Johnny Blood/Sheriff Anthony Festa Anthony Festa
Standby Bella Rose/Susanna Celia Hottenstein Celia Hottenstein
Standby Governor/Priest Tom Souhrada Tom Souhrada

Critical reception

Michael Dale of Broadway World called it a; "[K]ick-ass new tuner, cleverly written in rhyming couplets that flow easily into song". Dale suggests that David Friedman and Peter Kellogg have "problem solver" added to their billing in reference to how scholars often refer to "Measure for measure" as one of Shakespeare's "problem plays". The review goes on to compare Lauren Molina's performance as " of those uproarious performances that used to make people stay home on Saturday nights to see on the "Carol Burnette Show". Dale stated that the highlight of the score is the number "All for you" (Just for You) after Conor Ryan's dunderheaded character explains to his sister Bella (played by Molina) that it wouldn't be too bad to spend one night with the governor in order to save his life but becomes upset that she is the one doing it.[22]


The York Theatre production won several awards, including Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Musical and for Outstanding Lyrics;[23] the Outer Critics Circle award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical;[24] and Off-Broadway Alliance Award for Best New Musical.[25]

Music and cast recording

External links


  1. ^ Alexis Soloski (October 16, 2017). "Making Shakespeare Their Own, Serious and Silly - The New York Times". New York Times. Retrieved .
  2. ^ His full name is given in the song "Someday They Will Thank Me"--the spelling is taken from the lyrics in the original cast album). According to Google Translate, it literally means "judges are obliged to drink" ( although most audiences probably simply laugh at the length.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Olivia Clement (September 5, 2018). "How 'Jewish Country Music' Plus Shakespeare Equals a Hit | Playbill". Retrieved .
  5. ^ Kenneth Jones (Jul 24, 2003). "Lyric Stage in TX Has World Premiere of Friedman-Kellogg Musical Desperate Measures in 2004 | Playbill". Playbill. Retrieved .
  6. ^ Mark Lowry (November 4, 2009). "TheaterJones | Wade Giampa, 1950-2009". Retrieved .
  7. ^ a b Kenneth Jones (April 30, 2004). "New Musical, Desperate Measures, Is Measure for Measure Served Texas-Style, at Lyric Stage | Playbill". Playbill. Retrieved .
  8. ^ a b Photo Coverage: NYMF's Desperate Measures Opens. Broadway, Saturday, September 16, 2006
  9. ^ Review by Don Church & Tony Schillaci in The Resident
  10. ^ Jacques Lamarre (July 9, 2012). "BWW Reviews: Spirit of Broadway's DESPERATE MEASURES an OK Musical at the OK Corral". Broadway World - Wisdom Digital Media.
  11. ^ Elyse Sommer. "A Second life for Desperate Measures". CurtainUp. Retrieved 2018.
  12. ^ "DESPERATE MEASURES Heads Into Final Weeks, Closing December 31". Broadway World. Wisdom Digital Media. December 21, 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  13. ^ Hannah Vine (December 29, 2017). "Desperate Measures Musical Celebrates 100 Performances Off-Broadway". Playbill. Retrieved .
  14. ^ "York Theatre Announces Cast, Creatives for Desperate Measures". Broadway World. TheaterMania. August 21, 2017. Retrieved 2018.
  15. ^ a b c Andrew Gans (July 3, 2018). "Cast Recording of Desperate Measures, With Lauren Molina and Conor Ryan, Now Available Digitally | Playbill". Playbill. Retrieved .
  16. ^ Hannah Vine (December 29, 2017). "Desperate Measures Musical Celebrates 100 Performances Off-Broadway". Playbill. Retrieved .
  17. ^ "Full Casting Announced for Desperate Measures". Broadway World. TheaterMania. April 17, 2018. Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  18. ^ Lifland, Shari (December 17, 2017). "Theatre Review: Desperate Measures at The York". HuffPost. Retrieved 2017.
  19. ^ "Desperate-Measures-Original-Cast-Recording". Retrieved 2018.
  20. ^ "Desperate Measures Original Off-Broadway Cast - 2018 Off-Broadway". Retrieved .
  21. ^
  22. ^ Michael Dale (June 22, 2018). "BWW Review: Problem Solved! Wild West Shakespeare Musical DESPERATE MEASURES is Hilarious and Tuneful". Broadway World - Wisdom Digital Media. Retrieved .
  23. ^ "New York Theater's Biggest Night". 2018 NOMINEES + WINNERS. TheaterMania. June 3, 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  24. ^ "Outer Critics Circle has announced award winners for the 2017-18 season". Outer Critics Circle. June 3, 2018. Retrieved 2018.
  25. ^ "2018 OBA AWARDS". Off Broadway Alliance. June 3, 2018. Retrieved 2018.

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