Ends Dec 31

Desperate Measures

Members say: Entertaining, Delightful, Clever, Great singing, Funny
23 reviews
491 reviews

The York Theatre Company presents a foot-stompin’, knee-slappin’ new musical set in the Old West that's inspired by Shakespeare's 'Measure for Measure.'

... Read more

In 1890 Johnny Blood, a hot-tempered young cowboy, is sentenced to hang for killing a man in a bar fight. His sister, a novice nun in a nearby mission, pleads with a corrupt governor to spare her brother’s life. The governor promises to pardon Johnny if the sister will 'do his bidding' for the night. Adding to the humorous complications are a hard-bitten sheriff, a voluptuous saloon girl, and a priest who reads Nietzsche.


Reviews (514)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
Avg Score


"A full-on reclamation of the musical comedy Western...Friedman has crafted a score that harks back to the old days, filled with cheerful melodies that will very likely get stuck in your head...Kellogg provides clever, tongue-in-cheek lyrics and a script that is written almost entirely in iambic pentameter...Castellino keeps his production barreling at a fast clip...'Desperate Measures' doesn't reinvent the wheel, but all told, it is a production of infinite jest and most excellent fancy." Full Review

The New York Times

"'Desperate Measures,' a bad-joke travesty of a problem play, is such a hoot...The songs are enthusiastically ordinary, except for the opening number, which is worse...The book is in rhyming couplets. The gags are hoary. Under Castellino’s direction, somehow it’s a delight. There’s less than an ounce of Shakespeare in it, but that probably won’t have the swan of Stratford rolling...That’s the spirit of the terrible, wonderful 'Desperate Measures': Have iamb, will travel." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"Under Bill Castellino's direction, everyone strikes exactly the right note of spoof melodrama...Once in a while, the sheer high spirits are allowed to slip out of control...But 'Desperate Measures' is mostly a fast, funny, tuneful entertainment that shines in direct proportion to the disrespect it shows for its source material." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"A happy surprise of a show filled with enjoyable songs, a talented cast and enough energy to let you overlook its natural desire to give everyone a turn in the spotlight...Director and choreographer Castellino does strong work...keeping the show buoyant...The cast has fun but they’re not too broad...A few bits go on too long...A solid production and a clutch of songs I’m eager to hear again. By any measure, that’s a happy ending." Full Review

Broadway Blog

“'Desperate Measures' is a far cry from 'Measure for Measure,' of course, Shakespeare's problem play having been transformed into a musical farce that takes the implausibilities of the original to comic extremes, including mining ironic laughter from the plot's ethical dilemmas…None of the talented singing and dancing thespians lets you down…If you're desperate for some easy-to-swallow musical theatre hard stuff I suggest galloping over to the York for a swig of 'Desperate Measures.'” Full Review

The Huffington Post

"Whether or not familiar with the tuner’s predecessor, audiences will quickly realize they’re at a truly entertaining show brimming with a good score, with a strong six-person cast...They’ll fast take to the overall package wrapped and tied with a bow by director-choreographer Bill Castellino...The action gallops along through two acts with the actors happily mugging their way in full-throated splendor...'Desperate Measures' is too much of an enjoyable time to pick at it for minor infractions." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"Adorable, witty, tuneful...The book and lyrics by Kellogg, done in iambic pentameter, are clever, hilarious, and unexpected. The music by Friedman is melodic and gets under your skin...Director and choreographer Bill Castellino keeps the energy flowing, the quips flying, and makes the two-hour show seem effortless...'Desperate Measures' makes us feel good to be alive. This is a must-see show for anyone who loves musicals, wants to laugh and likes well-crafted theatre." Full Review


"A lighthearted, easy-on-the-ear musical...Castellino smoothly steers the six-member ensemble...All the performers rate an A+ for their acting and singing...The actors milk their broadly drawn characters for maximum humor and beautifully render Friedman's catchy score and Kellogg's very smart lyrics. Emma Degerstedt brings a gorgeous voice and lots of charm to the show's heroine, as does Lauren Molina as the less demure saloon singer Bella." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"It’s a smart and creative reimagining that works wonders on the plot points...A smartly directed and choreographed good time by Castellino, the musical giddily gallops forward, taking a convoluted Shakespearean text and improving on it. I never thought I’d say that, but 'Measure for Measure' mixed with Mel Brooks and a melodic musical score create one great time at the dance hall." Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"The 'guts' of 'Measure for Measure' with the charm and appeal of a traditional Broadway musical. Peter Kellogg and David Friedman are to be commended for achieving this feat and bringing this clever retelling to the stage...This is a pleasant musical that celebrates the enduring themes of love, commitment, and 'being alive.' The cast is uniformly engaging – all triple threats with vocal, acting, and movement skills." Full Review


“While not all musicals from Shakespeare have worked and updates are particularly risky, ‘Desperate Measures’ avoids all of the pitfalls and is a refreshing and satisfying work in its own right. The catchy score has superb songs in the vein of the best of the Broadway Western musical. It is hoped the show has a long life beyond this production, like its young hero, in years to come.” Full Review

Woman Around Town

"This rambunctious musical is a blend of dialogue in clever, conversational verse, articulate lyrics, irrepressible comedy, infectious tunes, and characters who are rarely as simple as they seem. GO...Kellogg’s libretto is accomplished...Friedman’s mixture of Broadway-like numbers and hoedowns work together seamlessly...The production is festooned with priceless comic freeze frames, captivating stage business, and general high spirits without becoming a cartoon." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"If you are looking for a good time at an Off-Broadway show, I guarantee that you’ll find it in 'Desperate Measures'...All of the scheming and romantic attractions are advanced by the charming score and the excellent voices of the cast members...The musical zips along merrily with fine integration of action and song, and by the end, when all has been colorfully worked out, one can applaud gratefully for all of the fun packed into this compact all-around display of talent." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Shakespeare’s plot has been stripped down and stretched out in Kellogg’s clever book...The score, by Kellogg and Friedman, is an airy array of show tunes with country flourishes. But Although Castellino and his cast of six bring bountiful vigor and comedic élan to the production, the characters are mere devices on which to hang songs and jokes. The quest for justice and mercy that burns throughout Shakespeare’s original—and so many Westerns—lies beyond this show’s range." Full Review

DC Metro Theater Arts

"A rollicking good time for those who enjoy shows that haven’t much on their minds other than to tickle your ribs and serve comfort food to your ears. For the music by Friedman, with a book and lyrics by Kellogg, is spirited, and sprinkled with wit...The songs come fast and loose, so many of them that they tend to blend into one...A cast of six experienced comic actors each has a chance to land with a piece of special material...A friendly smile-maker of a musical." Full Review

City Cabaret

"A spirited musical...Lyricist Peter Kellogg’s slick book features rhyming couplets and a score of 18 David Friedman catchy tunes...An appropriately brisk pace keeps the plot nimble for the six bang-up actors to chew up the scenery...'Desperate Measures' is the little musical that comes off big on all levels. With shadows of Shakespeare, it is witty and lively and the York Theatre delivers a captivating New York premiere production." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Most of 'Desperate Measures' is a hoot...The jokes are so constant, and director-choreographer Castellino's touch so deft, that the atmosphere becomes supercharged with hilarity, and even the lesser gags land...There's nothing innovative about 'Desperate Measures,' which, every note and every word, sounds like it could have been written in 1962. But hey, that wasn't a bad era for musical comedy. This one's as escapist as escapist can be." Full Review


"The funniest, most tuneful, non-stop, slam-bang best musical of our four-month-old season...If Shakespeare were alive today, he might smack his head for not thinking of a romantic entanglement that Kellogg did...Kellogg’s jokes get laughs that are substantially longer than the theatrical average. Subtle gags abound, too...Castellino sets a tone where a tongue isn’t firmly planted in cheek, but rubs against it a little." Full Review

Stage Buddy

"An uproarious reimagining of Shakespeare's 'Measure for Measure,' complete with a cast of vivacious characters and a host of incredibly memorable songs...Every element of 'Desperate Measures' seems to have been devised with both wit and love. This is also true of the wonderful cast, all of whom turn out both cracking and endearing performances...A musical with a script this lovely AND songs that could stand alone is a relatively rare phenomenon...Not to be missed." Full Review

Diandra Reviews it All

"One of the hottest tickets for Off-Broadway that gives you the same star power and emotional thrills as The Great White Way...The whole show is filled with powerful voices and a few humbling lessons...'Desperate Measures' is a brisk, good time filled with numbers that is rich in arrangements and powerful ballads...More importantly, the lyrics and even fleeting phrases have sincere, societal commentary." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"A toe-tapping unforgettable score of fifteen hummable tunes and precise expressive lyrics...A brilliant book without an extra syllable in it...strewn with low jinx bawdy enough to amuse the baseborn and observations astute enough to impress the scholarly, yet capable of making both of the above mutually burst into billowing roars of laughter...An unspoiled, impeccable, picture perfect catch of performers...Every person in the audience walked out laughing." Full Review

Off Off Online

"Manages to transcend its corny potential and genuinely entertain. Though the rhyming can be slightly tiresome at moments, and the show’s overt humor doesn’t always land, the show is smartly structured, balancing its exaggerated shenanigans with enough subtle, tender moments to add nuance and keep its characters from being mere clichés...Its success is largely owed to its cast of six, who ensure that the musical’s over-the-top nature comes across with a balance of humor and humanity." Full Review

Edge New York

“Cute but predictable and unfortunately not as funny as it tries to be. And that's just it–‘Desperate Measures’ tries desperately hard, but you can feel that strain from some of the forced gags and physical humor…That isn't to say there's nothing in the show for fans of Shakespeare or musicals or farces that take place in the Old West; the seams show and the jokes sometimes land flat, but even when it pushes too hard, it's still endearing, rhymes and knee-slaps be damned.” Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
Avg Score

Funny, Clever, Delightful, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you enjoy musical theatre, well performed

Don't see it if you hate "country-themed" music or you believe Shakespeare is sacred.

Also Loosely based on Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, and moved to pre-s... Read more Read less

Clever, Delightful, Intelligent, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you enjoy a tease re: Shakespeare country music and some fantastic singing by the entire cast. Take a look in the hallway re J. Morgan work

Don't see it if you are fixed on pure Shakespeare or pure country music.

Funny, Entertaining, Good singing

See it if you are a fan of musical comedy, Westerns or love stories. Loosely based on Measure For Measure.

Don't see it if you are not into comedies, or into Westerns or do not particularly enjoy romantic stories.

Funny, Delightful, Great singing, Well written

See it if You want a terrific time enjoying a clever show in couplets with stellar singers. Very refreshing, best in off broadway!

Don't see it if If you don’t want to have some high quality escapist fun, but do give it a try!

Clever, Enchanting, Great acting, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if want to see a western-musical version (kind of) of a Shakespeare plot that has great writing and wonderful acting. Thoroughly a delight!

Don't see it if hate anything Shakespeare and have the disposition of Scrooge at the beginning of "A Christmas Carol."

Entertaining, Fluffy, Great cast, Silly fun, Clever writing

See it if you like your Shakespeare adapted. Very well done in iambic pentameter. The show is a hoot--just don't take it too seriously.

Don't see it if you are a Shakespeare purist. If you are looking for something deep or don't like silly. If you can't overlook some gender stereotypes.

Funny, Delightful, Entertaining

See it if A fun evening out with a winning cast that makes you feel good all over.

Don't see it if Musicals don't do it for you.

Charming delightful fun

See it if Charm is hard to achieve, but when a show gets it right as this does, it's a joy. Still humming songs; how often has that happened lately?

Don't see it if ancient jokes & silliness bother you. They're not my taste, but the actors are so winning & have such good singing voices, I was won over.

Also There's a curtain speech prompting audiences to post good reviews on S... Read more Read less

Delightful, Refreshing, Hilarious, Great singing, Great staging

See it if you want a good time! Everything about this musical farce is well done joyous fun! I particularly liked the unsubtle facial expressions.

Don't see it if you want realism, drama and significant issues.

Great acting, Great writing, Entertaining, Great singing, Great staging

See it if you want a light musical w/ max. fun, memorable tunes, & a cute cast. The stage design & their version of Shakespeare's play is just as fun!

Don't see it if you don't like (fun) musicals, but after you see this, you might just change your mind. It is one that I don't mind watching again & again.

Also The material (comical version of the play), stage design snf music are... Read more Read less

Funny, Dated, Entertaining, Fluffy

See it if you desire splendid performances from a very talented cast and enjoy fluffy entertainment.

Don't see it if you don't want to see a very talented cast held hostage by trite lyrics and a score that borrows from every source under the sun.

Also Kellog and Friedman have spent years working together and are able to ... Read more Read less

Clever, Delightful, Enchanting, Great acting, Great singing

See it if You love silliness executed beautifully, and great comic acting.

Don't see it if You are a purist when it comes to Shakespeare.

Funny, Clever, Delightful, Entertaining, Fun

See it if you are looking for a delightful evening of good entertainment. Good cast, fun music and funny script makes this great entertainment.

Don't see it if you are looking for a big musical or if your're not in the mood for fun fluff. But you're missing out.

Also What a terrific fun romp. I was not in the mood to be out and entertai... Read more Read less

Funny, Clever, Great writing, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you want an entertaining, Wild West musical that borrows from Shakespeare. You love well-written rhymes, incredible singing, and shtick.

Don't see it if you expect a thought-provoking musical that is extremely true to the source. The songs are fun and well-delivered but not boundary-pushing.

Also The York Theatre Company did a fantastic job of transforming Measure f... Read more Read less

Clever, Delightful, Enchanting, Hilarious, Entertaining

See it if you want to see a (loose) Shakespeare adaptation with fantastic music and performances. This show finds a perfect balance of fun and heart!

Don't see it if you're a Shakespeare purist. This show takes liberties, but manages to make the old west pastiche really work. Fantastic ensemble cast!!

Clever, Delightful, Entertaining

See it if You are looking for an old fashioned Melodrama / Farce. Play based on Shakespeare's Measure for Measure set in old West. Silly Bawdy & Fun

Don't see it if You don't like Farce; Are looking for the meaning of life. Don't want to listen to a musical play in iambic pentameter (in modern language).

Delightful, Great acting, Must see, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if Like a Midwestern take on one of Shakespear's Classics, fantastic.

Don't see it if Dont like campy musicals.

Also This is my second time seeing this play, and i took a friend, and we L... Read more Read less

Clever, Delightful, Enchanting, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if You like musicals, great singing, fun raunchy stories and the wild west.

Don't see it if you're a stick in the mud who doesn't like to have fun.

Also A wonderful fun romp thorough a Shakespearean farce in a musical forma... Read more Read less

Funny, Clever, Delightful, Great acting

See it if Hilarious and entertaining! I was carried away by the wit, the humor, and the superb acting of the entire cast. Do not miss this gem.See it!

Don't see it if I can not think of any reason not to see it. This play was the work of writers at the top of their game. Everyone should see it!

Funny, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if Want a fun fun evening with great singing and just an overall fun night. You dont have to think hard.

Don't see it if Only like big Broadway musicals.

Funny, Clever, Romantic, Great singing, Fluffy

See it if You want a fun time with a farsical story line.

Don't see it if You are triggered by forced sexual encounters

Delightful, Enchanting, Great acting, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if you want to laugh and be truly entertained. This show is absolutely charming. Wild West setting of Measure for Measure works. Songs are fun.

Don't see it if you don't like light entertainment or small cast shows. But give it a try anyway. It really is a delight.

Clever, Delightful, Enchanting, Hilarious, Great singing

See it if You love smart, tuneful musicals sung splendidly. Cleverly transfers Shakespeare to the American West.

Don't see it if I can't think of any reason not to see it. Miss it and you will be sorry.

Funny, Clever, Great writing, Great singing

See it if You need a shot of silly for a lift during these troubled times

Don't see it if If your a too busy

Funny, Clever, Delightful, Enchanting, Entertaining

See it if You're in the mood for a fun night out at the theater with great acting and singing, a smart and funny cast, and a well designed set.

Don't see it if You don't like to laugh or need a big set for your musicals. This small theater set was brilliantly used and a lot of fun to see.