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A Letter to Harvey Milk

From 21 critic and 334 member reviews
Members say: Great singing, Entertaining, Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking

About the show

Set in San Francisco in 1986, this musical deals with issues of friendship and loss, the grip of the past, and the hard-won acceptance set in motion by the most unexpected people.  More…

What could Harry, an amiable but lonely retired kosher butcher have in common with Barbara, his young lesbian writing teacher at the senior center? Is it enough to bridge the divide?  When Harry fulfills a writing assignment to compose a letter to someone from his past who’s dead, he writes not to his late wife Frannie, but to Harvey Milk, the first openly gay political leader in California. Barbara is stunned. Harry's letter evokes life-changing revelations that neither could have foreseen. 

Diandra Reviews it All

"Heller's Harry Weinberg and Knitel's Barbara Katsef are at the heart of the show...Heller gives Harry a connective personality...Knitel gives Barbara such a natural charm...This musical feels refreshingly simple and heartwarming...For 100 minutes you watch two people sing and accept that to have love in life, they must also have loss...'A Letter To Harvey Milk' is brisk in its impact. It seeds into your heart, and blossoms with love." Full Review


"Surprisingly fierce little musical...Ginsburg's lush orchestrations for piano, cello, and woodwinds give the music a sentimental air ideal for a story about the dredging of feelings long thought drowned. At the same time, the lyrics are honest and playful...Pappas juggles the overlapping plot lines with grace and precision. We're always aware of where we are...Brimming with warmth and clandestine power, this is one of those musicals that stows away in your heart without you even noticing." Full Review

Front Row Center

"The play is at its best in its funny moments...The serious scenes are earnest but come off trite or corny. One exception to this is Harry’s telling of a tender moment he experienced in a concentration camp...There are 16 musical numbers in the play and they are the best element of 'A Letter To Harvey Milk'...All of the actors have lovely Broadway voices and can sell a song." Full Review

Plays to See

"The musical is not just the clichés or the humor; instead, it shines a light on Judaism and homosexuality, on loss and on loneliness...The songs, while charming...are not particularly memorable. The jokes are sometimes strained...The show is better served when it separates the music's intentions and instead transitions mood through dialogue...With chutzpah and warmth, 'A Letter to Harvey Milk' is a moving exploration of Judaism and the trauma that comes from publicly being who you are." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"A charming sweet musical that does manage to splice a lot of power and punch out of a sometimes silly setup and structure. The music is lovely, while the lyrics...sometimes border on the simplistic or stereotypical, the story in the end is emotionally worthy of its telling...The actors' voices feel like they belong attached to the songs...At times, the big conflict between Barbara and Harry feels dated, artificial, and overly dramatic...This is a letter worth reading and seeing." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"A pleasantly engaging but uneven new show…The vigor of the placid Harry's position, which sharply contradicts everything he appears to have represented until now, seems an artificial device to light a firecracker under a relatively stagnant plot…Even more difficult to accept is how it's connected to something Harry experienced years ago…jarringly altering the lightly sentimental tone to which we've grown accustomed…The leads are all excellently cast." Full Review


"Directed by Pappas from present to past and back again, the characters gradually unveil their secrets and come to appreciate the love, humor, hope and traditions of their lives...Newman's dialogue is overly generous with Yiddish colloquialisms...If not a timeless American musical, 'A Letter to Harvey Milk' offers an honest truth in a time that needs it." Full Review

Theater Reviews from my Seat

"We engage in fairly familiar emotional territory with the main conceit centering on homosexuality and acceptance, with a large schmear of Jewish humor...A very strong book and the three lead characters are given a lot to say and think about. The story arc surprised me and was very effective in peeling back the layers within both Harry and Barbara, and the letter that was written. The music and lyrics range from garden variety to schtick...The ballads are very good and memorable." Full Review

Motherhood Later

"This musical is ambitious, especially for 90 minutes, and does an excellent job of keeping the storyline clear...If you are looking for one central show-stopping musical number, this show doesn’t deliver that as much as it has lyrical high points...What this musical may lack in lasting, highly-memorable songs, it more than makes up for in its storytelling and stellar acting performances—in my opinion, Heller’s performance is the standout." Full Review

Stage Buddy

"In the current political climate, a musical like 'A Letter to Harvey Milk' can remind each of us of the importance of tolerance and understanding...Successful due to a range of musical numbers that run the gamut of funny to moving...Evan Pappas’ direction is thoughtful and precise with quick scene transitions for a breezy 90-minute show...The musical is shy in conflict and drama, opting for characters who are so likable that it’s hard to discern how each one grows." Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"Runs the gamut from Borscht Belt shtick to tenderness to tragedy...The lyrics by the late Ellen M. Schwartz supplemented by lyrics by Cheryl Stern are often clunky...Director Evan Pappas keeps the action flowing smoothly. If you are expecting a play about Harvey Milk, you will be disappointed. I couldn’t escape the feeling that the show was crafted to pander to an audience that is Jewish, LGBT, or preferably both. It has its moments, but the uneven tone undermines it." Full Review

Broadway & Me

"An unapologetic sweetness...that won me over despite the many flaws...The book has the feel of something hammered out in a sitcom writers' room, complete with some wince-inducing one-liners...The score is pleasant but equally generic and unmemorable...Economically directed...Put together on a stingy budget...The performances are sincere and well sung...What most appeals to me is the fact that this show isn't trying to be anything but what it is." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"The musical really takes off in its second half...Overall 'A Letter to Harvey Milk' is impressive and quite enjoyable, but could use further revision...While some of the numbers have lyrics that are quite poetic and beautiful, others are a bit on the nose. If it weren’t for the unexpectedly poignant turn the production takes in the second half, 'A Letter To Harvey Milk' might be somewhat forgettable." Full Review

Boy Culture

"Pleasantly surprised that the show offers so many twists and turns...As Harry, Heller is note-perfect...Sings beautifully and sells the songs, which are at times affecting and sweet but can veer into corny...Knitel is believable...Has a clear, lovely voice...The musical was difficult for me at first, but it builds tremendously to a genuinely moving climax that made me forget about having wanted to hear more about Milk himself - it is Harry's story, and he certainly has one." Full Review

Theater In The Now

"One of those musicals that just has a little too much happening at once...A haunting story that tries to achieve a bit too much...Quite possibly the biggest triumph of 'A Letter to Harvey Milk' is its representation of a queer woman in a musical...It's safe to say that perhaps the source material may be flawed for adapting it into a stage musical. 'A Letter to Harvey Milk' tells an important narrative. It's just the execution that is a little lacking...It's unfortunate how dated the show fee... Full Review


"There's a lot to like about this show, but it isn't wholly successful for a variety of reasons. First of all, in my opinion, 90-minute musicals rarely work. It's a tall order to develop characters, as well as relationships...While partially due to the short duration of the show, part of that is also due to the writers' decision to include some of the dialogue within the songs like recitative...That said, the actors hold the musical together nicely." Full Review

Melinda's Malarky

"Churning with good intentions, humor and delightful musical numbers...The play is curdling in a loaded plot, partly an homage to Harvey Milk...and a heavy-handed humanitarian message...Still there's plenty to enjoy thanks to earnest performances that tug at your heart and the entertaining musical score...The inspirational communications and backstory in the camps are spread with schmaltz but there is a lot of honey to savor." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Mixed-bag of a musical...The plot and characters are potentially quite moving. Unfortunately, the material is undercut by a bland and generic score...The performances are better than the material...Some of the early scenes move along a bit sluggishly, but director Pappas creates some effective stage images...Fall short of its musical ambitions, but the show does conclude with a sense of reconciliation, understanding, and, of course, hope." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"This new musical does a very nice job of taking a topic and making it fun and entertaining, while not overloading the audience with historical facts and political jargon...The letter itself is a beautifully written declaration...But what follows feels like a 90-minute musical about putting gays back into the closet...Could have such power and influence on those who don't understand the gay agenda and rights movement...Unfortunately, it seems to have been written by those people." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"This is an old-fashioned laughter-and-tears exercise that combines wheezy gags with weepy revelations and the tasteless exploitation of certain world-historical events...The dialogue sounds like something thrown together in the writers' room of a mediocre television sitcom...Under Pappas' direction, the cast performs in a variety of styles...Filled to the brim with good will, but tries much too hard, overreaching in a way that comes across as unpleasantly calculating." Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"Has good intentions but becomes confusing as it address too many issues...The characters seem to be messengers delivering information without an emotional investment. What adds to the disconnect, is the overload of comic relief and lack of focus on any specific topic. The book manages to provide a catharsis for the characters but not for the audience. The cast is more than competent but cannot overcome the tedious and disjointed script." Full Review

Must see, Intelligent, Great singing, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if appreciate off-Broadway excellence.

Don't see it if ...see it! (I wish I had reviewed this earlier)

Entertaining, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if Interested in history

Don't see it if Not interested in Harvey Milk

Intelligent, Great staging, Great singing, Great acting, Clever

See it if If you are LGBTQ or interested in the history of the movement.

Don't see it if You are homophobic.

Great writing, Great singing, Great acting, Funny, Absorbing

See it if You want to have a wonderful theatrical experience that is relevant and a must-see for the world in today's times.

Don't see it if You don't want too see plays dealing with important issues such as Anti Semitism and Homophobia.

Refreshing, Intense, Great writing, Great singing, Absorbing

See it if you enjoy historical fiction or you enjoy original musicals with realistic, relatable characters and relationships.

Don't see it if you are looking for something fluffy. There are funny moments, but it will definitely move you deeply and leave you thinking.

Masterful, Funny, Entertaining, Clever, Absorbing

See it if You want to laugh, think and maybe even cry. Singing and acting were very good!

Don't see it if You don't like funny musicals.

Great writing, Great singing, Great acting, Funny, Absorbing

See it if You like funny, sensitive stories that are extremely well done with great singing and acting. Very poignant. Strongly recommended.

Don't see it if You are not into musicals. However, this is highly recommended.

Thought-provoking, Refreshing, Profound, Intelligent, Clever

See it if You enjoy a story loosely based on an historical event with a clever twist and some nifty lyrics

Don't see it if If you're homophobic you won't appreciate this show

Relevant, Intelligent, Great singing, Clever, Absorbing

See it if you want to see great talent, explore some great problems of the 20th & 21st century ..aging. gender,. relationships the Holocaust, memories

Don't see it if No negatives for partner nor for me. Her 100% (1st time) and my 94%. The singing was excellent esp. the two leads ( left playbill in car)

Refreshing, Must see, Masterful, Intense, Absorbing

See it if You like musicals that are really moving and poignant. I see tons of shows, and this is one of the best shows I've ever seen.

Don't see it if Not sure why you wouldn't see it.

Must see, Great singing, Intense, Delightful, Absorbing

See it if you are in the mood for a heartfelt, funny and very moving story of love, loss and memory.

Don't see it if you don't like sentimental musicals

Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Great singing, Funny, Absorbing

See it if Fantastic, fascinating funny and heart-wrenching musical. Very well done.

Don't see it if You need to have an open mind to enjoy this musical.

Much more than i thought it would be, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if You enjoy musicals with twists and Unpredictable plot lines

Don't see it if You are not interested in introspective issues relating to homosexuality

Profound, Intelligent, Great singing, Great acting, Absorbing

See it if you want to see a play about two very different people who come to form an incredible, mutual bond. If you want to be moved yet still smile!

Don't see it if You don't appreciate a bit of yiddishkeit or a play that deals with the stigma of homosexuality and how it can impact families and truths.

Thought-provoking, Great writing, Great staging, Great singing, Great acting

See it if you are in the mood for a heartwarming story about the healing power of writing and reading + a lesson in seeking and keeping relationships.

Don't see it if you are not open to the inspiring stories of a gay politician, a searching lesbian teacher, and a widowed Jewish senior citizen, with humor.

Thought-provoking, Resonant, Absorbing, Entertaining, Intelligent

See it if you want to be blown away by an unexpected gem

Don't see it if you want only a fluff piece

Entertaining, Clever, Absorbing

See it if wanty to be entertained

Don't see it if your scared of lesbian issues

Great singing, Great acting, Must see, Refreshing, Riveting

See it if you like small musicals with a sensitive book.

Don't see it if you only like big musicals with huge dance numbers

Funny, Great singing, Delightful, Masterful, Intelligent

See it if You like a clever, amusing and yet moving,, small scale musical with great acting and singing performances and good music throughout.

Don't see it if You don't like musicals or don't want to be entertained.

Moving, Compelling, Poignant, Must see, Relevant

See it if you enjoy stories of people bridging their differences and finding their commonality. This was a beautiful story and told in a clever way.

Don't see it if you have no interest in LGBT or Jewish stories and don't believe (to quote Kinky Boots) you can change the world if you change your mind.

Also This show was a refreshing surprise to me. After losing a string of Br... Read more Read less

Insightful, Great writing, Great singing, Human, Masterful

See it if You want a wonderful musical w/ a real human storyline. Jewish humor. Total entertainment.

Don't see it if Your not looking for a LGBT story. Don't like culture story's.

Also The cast blend together sooooo well. ... Read more Read less

Riveting, Thought-provoking, Intelligent, Great writing, Clever

See it if you want to see one of the most gripping, horrifying (but necessary) scenes in recent memory that will stay with you for days

Don't see it if you can't sit through a slow start or are triggered by the Holocaust

Profound, Great acting, Ambitious, Absorbing

See it if you want a very surprising, multi-level performance. Thought provoking with great acting. Another big plus was the intimacy of the theater.

Don't see it if you require glitz. This is a thoughtfully conceived piece that compels your involvement.

Riveting, Thought-provoking, Refreshing, Exquisite, Absorbing

See it if you are interesting in the connections we make across generations and how people learn about themselves.

Don't see it if there's not a lot of reasons NOT to see this show--I'm going to assume that even homophobic people will know who Harvey Milk was.

Also This show was absolutely wonderful. Anyone who knows about Harvey Milk... Read more Read less

Must see, Great singing, Great acting, Funny, Entertaining

See it if You will enjoy great singing and acting and appreciate a well written relatable story, live music and great performance!

Don't see it if Everyone should see it.

Also I have seen this show more than five times, I believe action speaks lo... Read more Read less

Cast & Creatives (18)