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New York | 2h 0m | Already closed

Desperate Measures

From 49 critic and 1,057 member reviews
Members say: Entertaining, Funny, Clever, Delightful, Great singing

About the show

After a hit run at the York Theatre, this madcap, wild musical, set in the Old West and inspired by Shakespeare's 'Measure for Measure,' re-opens at New World Stages for an open-ended run. More…

When the dangerously handsome Johnny Blood’s life is on the line after a saloon brawl, he must put his fate into the hands of a colorful cast of characters including a mysterious sheriff, an eccentric priest, a sleazy governor, a saloon girl gone good, and a nun out of the habit. Before the sun sets, will they pull off the greatest caper yet? Will justice prevail or will Johnny be left hanging? 'Desperate Measures' won the 2018 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best New Off-Broadway Musical, and the Drama Desk Awards for Best Music and Lyrics.

2h 0m | Already closed | New World Stages (Midtown W)


“Hilarious and tuneful show...Cleverly written in rhyming couplets that flow easily into song...It’s all played for silliness and director/choreographer Bill Castellino's slam-bang production, framed by designer James Morgan's sight gag-laden set, takes full advantage of a strong singing cast that also sports excellent comic chops...This reviewer would put it above any of the new musicals that opened on Broadway this past season for those seeking flat-out musical comedy fun." Full Review

Show Showdown

"Sometimes an old-fashioned, well-done, energetic, deeply silly musical is the perfect way to spend an evening…Shows of this sort live and die by the direction and performances, and both are swell. Castellino paces the show perfectly, and the cast throw themselves whole-heartedly into the crazy goings-on…Beside their comic talents, they all sing beautifully…As a woman in the lobby after the show summed up, 'You may get here grumpy, but you won't leave grumpy'." Full Review


"It’s a rare thing when all of the elements come together perfectly to create true theatrical magic...A fast-paced, cheek-aching musical comedy masterpiece! What makes it work so well isn’t any one aspect but all combined...Always clever, sometimes utterly ingenious wordplay that has the audience uproarious with laughter...But what really makes this show soar is its extraordinary cast guided by the deft direction and choreography of Bill Castellino." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"Last October, I strongly recommended 'Desperate Measures,' the delightful musical farce loosely based on…'Measure for Measure,' which it sets in the Wild West, turning…Angelo into a Trump-like tyrant. 'Desperate Measures' has now returned for a commercial run with the only cast change being Sarah Parnicky in the role of Sister Mary Jo...Despite a drop in intimacy, and a running time…that's a little longer than it need be, 'Desperate Measures' continues to ride high in the saddle." Full Review


"This clever and tuneful little show is better than ever on the larger stage...This cast is a wow! All inhabit their characters with impeccable comic timing and have vocal chops that do full justice to the ear-hugging songs and witty rhymed lyrics...Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who found 'Measure for Measure' to be the 'single exception to the delightfulness of Shakespeare's plays' would certainly find plenty to be delighted with in 'Desperate Measures.'" Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"Delightful, slightly bawdy show…The entire cast are excellent…The music by David Friedman is consistently hummable and occasionally more than that. The book and lyrics by Peter Kellogg are very clever...Director/choreographer Bill Castellino is quite comfortable with the material and works in several bits of hilarious physical humor.…If you are looking for old-fashioned light summer entertainment, this will fill the bill nicely." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"In addition to the cast's sterling performances under Bill Castellino's simple yet lively direction, and James Morgan's easy moveable sets, what makes the musical work so well is Kellogg's facility with rhyming dialogue (natural and rarely forced) and one of the most tuneful scores of recent vintage." Full Review


"Shakespearean spoofs are almost as old as Shakespeare himself, dating back to at least the Restoration period. Although the vast majority has faded into history, there are still some real standouts like the classic musical 'Kiss Me, Kate,' which thanks largely to Cole Porter is arguably even more enjoyable than its source material, a rare feat that the relatively new musical 'Desperate Measures,' now in its second off-Broadway run, also accomplishes." Full Review

Broadway Blog

"Deft direction and a snappy book and score delivered by a comically-gifted cast, this evening is the perfect compliment to these #metoo times…Highest comic marks go Ryan and Molina as secondary love interests Johnny and Bella… Although on the surface, the evening is played for laughs, Castellino subversively works in some of the Bard’s deeper themes of heartless unyielding law enforcement and sexual harassment—both alive and well four centuries later in Trump’s America." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

“Hilariously silly but fun new musical...Opens with a surprisingly smart and funny bang...With solid music direction and orchestrations by David Hancock Turner and a smartly directed and choreographed good time by Bill Castellino the musical production giddily gallops forward, taking a convoluted Shakespearian 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 creates one great time at the dance hall.” Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"After a slowish start that sets up the situation, 'Desperate Measures' expertly mixes high and low comedy...Surely the direction of Castellino played a key role in the light touch maintained throughout...The show's hallmark is its good taste. By taking the premise at face value and playing it for all it's worth -- but without belaboring it in the slightest -- everyone involved has achieved exactly the kind of breezy, beguiling entertainment that should be on tap at all times." Full Review

New York Stage Review

"A constant smile-inducer of a musical...A tuneful, amusing, constantly surprising score...There’s virtually no end of encomia that can be poured on the cast members’ heads…Ryan has a strong voice—who doesn’t in this ensemble?—but he also is physically adept, constantly using his body for clownish punctuation…More off-hand with Susanna’s commitment to faith than Isabella is in the Shakespeare original, but that hardly matters when so much good clean fun is on tap." Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

“As bodacious and bawdy as ever...Has the ‘guts’ of ‘Measure for Measure’ with the charm and appeal of a traditional Broadway musical...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. They stay true to their characters and deliver authentic and believable performances.” Full Review

Front Row Center

"'Desperate Measures' relies on cliche and spoof to carry the evening. That said, this show has enough feel-good reserve that, by the time it wraps up, the audience is clapping to the band’s hoedown rhythms as the cast takes curtain calls...Kellogg makes the rhyming device fun without beating you over the head with it…The singing voices and the harmonies sound pure...In the market for a small, sweet, feel-good musical? 'Desperate Measures' should do the trick." Full Review

Stage Left

“Abandons any pretense of wrestling with Shakespeare’s grander, weightier statements...but plays out like the early musicals of the 1930s...While it could be punchier and more socially relevant, I am hard pressed to think of another new musical as fun and, well, charming—a guilty pleasure that kept me smiling from start to finish...The score is abundantly smart and surprising, despite its subtlety, Kellogg’s book and lyrics are well-crafted and humorous." Full Review


“A delightful musical...It’s all pretty ridiculous, but those doings (and the repercussions) are presented in a spirited fashion, and with a lovely (and sometimes funny) score, as well as dialogue amazingly pulled off in rhyming couplets à la the bard himself...The cast is game...The villain is a piggish male who is presented as a despicable buffoon. The women are part of a plan to outsmart him, which they nimbly do, using all their wiles. It all works out.” Full Review

Carey Purcell

"Utterly zany, ridiculously charming and unapologetically entertaining...Even this critic...was shaking with laughter more than she was raising an eyebrow throughout this unabashedly old-fashioned but undeniably all-too-relevant production...In the hands of a lesser cast, 'Desperate Measures' could be more problem than play, but under Castellino’s direction, this ensemble shows, rather than tells, the moral questions and quandaries and maintains a feather-light touch." Full Review

A Seat on the Aisle

"No previous Shakespearean scholarship is required to follow the show’s wacky plot or to have a rollicking good time...Each member of the excellent six-person cast has ample opportunity to shine in solo, duet, and ensemble numbers, ably selling Peter Kellogg’s consistently witty lyrics...While Bill Castellino directs and choreographs 'Desperate Measures' to make the most of its abundant comedic elements, there is a serious undertone to the work." Full Review

Musical Theater Review

"The show’s book by Kellogg, while not exactly a one-joke affair, is pretty close to one. Luckily, there’s no effort to take anything seriously, and the dialogue is filled with rhyming verse, heightening the larky flavour. With the aid of an appealing cast and Bill Castellino’s lively direction and choreography, it manages to work up its share of pleasant merriment...All in all, 'Desperate Measures' is a respectable addition to the canon of musicals that have found their inspiration in the Ba... Full Review

Broadway Lover

"A witty and quick moving show...The show cleverly addresses themes like justice and hypocrisy through its cast, all of whom have their time to shine. While the music is not the most memorable on the planet it's fun and fits with the attitude of the show. If you're looking for something to entertain you for 2 hours or so, you will certainly find what you're looking for in 'Desperate Measures.'" Full Review

New York Stage Review

"A rootin’, tootin’, scootin’, hootin’ Wild West musical comedy that likely will tickle those customers whose lower funny bones are within easy reach. It’s an awfully broad show for my finicky taste...Wants to be nothing more than a pleasant light entertainment that spoofs melodramatic horse operas…Cultivating these dandy performances and nimbly staging their doings with speed and good humor, Castellino has shaped a trivial, tumbleweed affair into a modestly diverting attraction." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

“Purely fun, but as the role of art as an invitation to activism becomes more essential than ever, there is little escape to be found in a musical in which a woman considers marrying an authoritarian figure as a better solution than fending on her own...The musical isn't without its charms, most of them coming in the form of Molina, who turns in a performance of such comedic precision that comparing her to Lucille Ball feels like somewhat of an understatement." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

for a previous production "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


for a previous production “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

Broadway Blog

for a previous production “'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

Intelligent, Quirky, Romantic, Great writing, Hilarious

See it if The writing was a great not to Shakespearean rhymes while still being very understandable for a modern audience. Hysterically funny.

Don't see it if Plot is very cheesy and corny, nothunger is taken too seriously.

Funny, Edgy, Must see, Hilarious, Great singing

See it if You love Shakespeare combined with hoedown hilarity!

Don't see it if You don't enjoy rhyming lines and raunchy humor

Funny, Clever, Delightful, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if You want to laugh, cry, and experience an incredible night of theatre!!

Don't see it if You don’t like having fun.

Fun and entertaining, Sharply tongue in cheek, Terrific, memorable score, Outstanding ensemble cast and voices, Clever and original

See it if You're up for a fast, fun musical farce with a superb ensemble cast, memorable songs, great voices, orchestrations, snappy direction & sets.

Don't see it if Just go—fun, clever, entertaining, silly & relevant, a terrific musical update (and arguably an improvement) of Measure For Measure. Go.

Also In another economic time, or with more advertising dollars, Desperate ... Read more Read less

Funny, Clever, Delightful, Enchanting, Entertaining

See it if You enjoy fun, music, dancing. Based on Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, but in a way even we non-Shakespeare lovers can enjoy.

Don't see it if Well, if you don't like having fun at the theater, you won't like it. Some folks enjoy serious drama and this ain't it.

Raunchy, Refreshing, Great writing, Hilarious, Entertaining

See it if you like Shakespeare with a twist. This super funny script exceeded expectations.

Don't see it if the thought of yet another rendition of Shakespeare makes you sick, if you like serious thoughtful plays, or if you don't like to laugh,

Funny, Great acting, Hilarious, Great singing

See it if The show was a musical, which I love and was really funny. Acting was really good.

Don't see it if If you don't like musicals, if you prefer something more serious.

Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Hilarious, Entertaining

See it if You love funny, entertaining, tuneful, musicals! (And get Shakespeare’s knickers in a twist!)

Don't see it if You like experimental, serious, depressing shows

Funny, Clever, Delightful, Entertaining

See it if You want to witness some hilarious and clever writing and captivating comedic acting. I didn’t expect it to be this FANTASTIC.

Don't see it if You will miss one of the most enjoyable off Broadway shows ever. It is really well done and hilarious.

Delightful, Hilarious, Entertaining

See it if You love to be entertained

Don't see it if If you do not like Great Theater

Funny, Delightful, Enchanting

See it if Tremendously entertaining, superbly talented actors

Don't see it if you don't want to have a great time. This is one of the most entertaining shows I've seen all season.

Funny, Ambitious, Clever, Delightful, Entertaining

See it if Based on Measure for Measure put on as a western. If you want a thoroughly enjoyable time. Go see this play. Cast excellent

Don't see it if If you are too stuffy

Delightful, Great acting, Hilarious, Great singing, Great staging

See it if If you like seeing updated/AU Shakespeare plays

Don't see it if You want a serious plot

Also I almost never give a full 100 score to a show but this seriously hit ... Read more Read less

Funny, Absorbing, Clever, Delightful, Entertaining

See it if you want to laugh

Don't see it if don't like comedy w/songs

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Hilarious

See it if Want to see a very funny show! This was the best off Broadway show I have ever seen. Loved it. Acting was great.

Don't see it if If you don't like comedy or musicals

Raunchy, Hilarious, Entertaining, Great singing, Great staging

See it if Fine farce with so many opportunities to laugh yourself silly that you almost hurt. Great singers who convey their joy at every opportunity

Don't see it if You do not like farces even when based on Shakespeare. A little raunchy too so do not take children.

Great acting, Must see, Great writing, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if Fantastic acting by everyone! Wonderful script and production. A joy to see. Far far exceeded our expectations.

Don't see it if You don't speak any English. Otherwise, I can't imagine your not enjoying this.

Clever, Exquisite, Must see, Hilarious, Great singing

See it if you want to see a wonderful reimagining of Shakespeare's play. Powerhouse singing with witty comedy to match. What a real treat this was!

Don't see it if you were looking to see Three Tall Women or something just as serious with no singing involved. This play is very goofy but damn good.

Funny, Clever, Great singing, Fluffy, Satisfying

See it if very cute comedic cast, fantastic voices, silly version of Measure by Measure set to music. It's adorable, sharp, witty, & satisfying

Don't see it if musical theatre archetypes (virgin, whore, hero, villain, fool) light silly fun with an All is Well ending. Not for the serious or stuffy

Also Hero Peter Saide gives me Hugh Jackman vibes! I have a little crush no... Read more Read less

Masterful, Refreshing, Hilarious, Great singing, Great staging

See it if you like comedic musicals and can appreciate a unique retelling of a Shakespeare play.

Don't see it if you don't like racy humor or would prefer to leave Shakespeare's play as it was written.

Absorbing, Enchanting, Entertaining, Great singing

See it if This could be in Broadway! Great singing, great music, wonderful cast!

Don't see it if No reason for you on not to see this show!

Funny, Clever, Entertaining

See it if When of my favorite shows! It was absolutely a gift to see this show and we could not stop laughing and having fun

Don't see it if you do not like musicals comedy and great talent

Clever, Delightful, Great acting, Must see, Entertaining

See it if If you like truly creative, clever dialogue (still amazed at how this was crafted from Shakespeare!), great acting and excellent score

Don't see it if You prefer the jukebox musicals with very little story running on Broadway now

Clever, Refreshing, Hilarious

See it if You need a break from the serious side of life, if you are amused by clever writing and enjoyable music

Don't see it if You want something deep or dark or relevant. Or if you are offended by the idea of having a little fun with Shakespeare!

Funny, Clever, Must see, Hilarious, Great singing

See it if You like funny, entertaining, totally enjoyable musicals

Don't see it if You like to laugh, not comfortable with some sexual references, like to have a good time at a show

Also This was a great show, very entertaining with great music and acting. ... Read more Read less

Cast & Creatives (13)