Members say: Great acting, Ambitious, Intelligent, Original, Clever

About the show

The Public Theater presents a historical fantasia by Tony nominee Michael John LaChiusa, following the inner lives and dreams of America's best-known daughters; a follow-up to his 1993 musical 'First Lady Suite.'

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The production explores the complex dynamic between mothers and daughters, as experienced by the women and children closest to the President of the United States: Patricia Nixon and her daughters, Tricia and Julie; Amy Carter and Susan Ford and their mothers, Rosalynn and Betty; Patti Davis and her mother, Nancy Reagan; and Barbara Bush and her daughter-in-law, Laura. All face obstacles and dilemmas that, in spite of the rarified environment of the White House and accompanying travails of the Presidency, are common to us all.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews


"On a very small stage, director Kirsten Sanderson has vividly provided us with the vision to imagine all the venues of the evening. She understands the strength of her dazzling cast, and guides them to give what may well be the best performances of their careers...This is a presentation to be experienced, discussed, and savored. It must definitely be declared one of the finest productions of the season." Full Review


"Every element of the design and directorial vision is acutely, passionately detailed, leaving the gifted cast with nothing more to do than be transcendent, a feat each and every one of these marvellous actors manages seemingly without effort." Full Review

Oscar E Moore

"You just might want to see this finely crafted and multi-textured production at least three times to fully grasp the artistic merits and musical majesty...The entire cast excels dramatically and vocally. They delve deeply into each character trying to resolve their problems. Politics and pressure take their toll on the battleground of 'The First Daughter Suite.' It’s horrifying and humorous - melancholy and disturbing. And vivid." Full Review

The Wall Street Journal

"Kirsten Sanderson’s staging is simple to a fault, but the ensemble cast is so good that it doesn’t matter. Ms. Testa also gets to sing the best number in the show, an extended duet whose softly undulating harmonies evoke Sondheim’s distinctive style without succumbing to mere derivativeness. The six-piece pit band lacks drive but that’s a counsel of perfection. In every other way, 'First Daughter Suite' is a little masterpiece." Full Review


"'First Daughter Suite' is absolutely enchanting, musically and dramatically...There’s enough sadness and whimsy in 'First Daughter Suite,' all kept deftly in balance, to leave us wanting more. I didn’t want it to end." Full Review


"The show features a vast cast of immensely talented women. Theater buffs will be delighted to hear them all sing in the intimate venue. With essentially no dialogue, the show transitions from song to song, giving each actor an opportunity to individually shine. And when they’re not performing their solos, they break off into layers of harmonies and belt-off contests which amount to pure ear candy. It’s worth catching 'First Daughter Suite' for the singing alone." Full Review

American Theater Web

"The combination of LaChiusa’s inventive storytelling and wide-ranging music creates a playground for the production’s nine-member cast, working under the sure-handed direction of Kirsten Sanderson. Vocally the company cannot be beat. Each of the performers traverses LaChiusa’s melodies with both ease and power." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"A wildly uneven, but often striking and surprisingly moving, quartet of musical episodes by Michael John LaChiusa. Among the show's pleasures are the author's wildly different, and often highly original, takes on a number of presidential spouses and daughters, and an A-team of musical theatre talents in splendid voice...Cutting across partisan lines, 'First Daughter Suite' is, for all its flaws, a remarkable act of the imagination." Full Review

The New York Times

"The limitations of the chamber work suit Mr. LaChiusa, whose large-scale musicals have sometimes seemed to sprawl out of shape and deflate. Working within the confines of this production’s self-contained vignettes, his music — and his talent — seems all the larger for being reined in. Like his captive characters, 'First Daughter Suite' thinks — and feels — way outside the box." Full Review

The Clyde Fitch Report

"The Public Theater has brought forth another gorgeous piece from one of its favorites, Michael John LaChiusa. The piece consists of four one-acts in which First Daughters and First Ladies appear in circumstances of the songwriter’s imagining. The fourth piece is so stunning that the noun-adjective 'classic' can instantly be attached to it. One may not have the same reaction to the other three." Full Review

Broadway & Me

"I'm a longtime LaChiusa fan but even I will admit that musical books aren't his strong suit. The scenarios in 'First Daughter Suite' are often amusing...But the jokes are too often obvious, playing to the biases of the Public's presumed liberal audiences. And some of the gibes are cheap shots...Still, LaChiusa is one of the few composers who regularly creates strong roles for women and here he's been blessed with a cast of eight gifted actresses, who turn in sensational performances." Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

"LaChiusa is a whiz at whimsy. His lyrics sail playfully in pleasurable, sometimes unexpected directions while his music bears the stamp of Sondheim. All the open fifths and soaring phrases can produce an emotional sameness....The actors assembled here by director Kristen Sanderson are achingly good." Full Review

DC Theatre Scene

"For all its lapses, 'First Daughter Suite' offers great satisfactions. The most prominent of these is the wonderful all-female cast...The cast’s spot-on acting inspires some genuinely moving moments...All nine actresses do such a stellar job that the joy in their performances is less in their impersonations of public figures as in their embodiments of breathing human beings. " Full Review


"LaChiusa and director Kristen Sanderson run away with artistic liberties, just staying on the right side of the line between genius and insanity...LaChiusa's more perspicacious audiences may be able to glean some profundity from the absurdity, but even if no deeper meaning runs beneath the waters of their sailing adventure, it is the gold standard of unadulterated theatricality. And after 44 executive reigns, we've hopefully learned by now that first families are nothing if not theatrical." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"It is unarguably another serious and magnetic musical of the type LaChiusa has made his career on...'First Daughter Suite' shares its forerunner's jagged composition, which musicalizes the mechanics of thought and rather than represent them with glitzy theatricality that might obscure the characters' souls. It's an ambitious form of storytelling, but not always an effective one; it makes the women seem flimsier and less important than either the musical or reality likely intended." Full Review

AM New York

"It's a safe bet that 'First Daughter Suite' will not go on to achieve the commercial success of 'Fun Home' or 'Hamilton,' both of which also originated at the Public Theater -- but that's not to say it wasn't worth producing, at least from an artistic perspective...'First Daughter Suite' may be uneven and tense, but it is often compelling." Full Review


"The stage craft is impeccable. Scott Pask's glistening floor supports the watery atmosphere and the idea of all these presidential satellites being in a giant fish bowl. And the small orchestra is neatly positioned in a balcony above the stage. LaChiusa's many fans won't want to miss 'First Daughter Suite,' even though flights of fancy and references aren't as hit-home as those in 'First Wives' Suite.'" Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

"Daughters of American presidents are given a satirical going over in this smart, entertaining new musical... In truth, the most barbed parts of the new show are about the assortment of the White House moms." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"There’s no disputing the extraordinary quality of the ensemble, each of whom sings and acts the often very complex, unconventional melodies with masterful skill and authority. However, too much borders on the banal, and for anyone who lived through these years and paid attention, there’s nothing here not already known. Mr. LaChiusa’s music has its fans, but, despite moments of great beauty, its over-dependence on dialogue-supporting recitative with extended notes may not be for everybody." Full Review

New York Theatre Guide

"If you walk away with nothing else, you will walk away astonished at the talent on the stage and in the orchestra. This production shoots the moon with talent and skill. The opening scene is nothing short of magnificent...Would that the entire piece lived up to it…The overall piece does not guide us along a path of firm footing. Instead we are left with scenes from the residencies that come across more like a house of horrors." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"The four sections of his latest musical 'First Daughter Suite' are, in order of appearance, smart, laborious, awful, and sublime...There is little that holds the evening together, despite a certain amount of thematic appliqué...In the end, these suites, being episodic, cannot dredge deep meaning the way narrative works can. Still, if it takes Amy Carter and Patti Davis to get to Barbara Bush, that’s a compromise I can live with." Full Review

The Wrap

"Liberals will enjoy this show more than conservatives. For everyone in between, 'Suite' offers real drama played out against a backdrop of grand opera...The problem here is that LaChiusa seems to be trying to write melodies but the tune falls flat. His vocal lines often features octave jumps that aren’t so much dramatic as they are awkward, more discomforting than dissonant — especially for the performers." Full Review


"Except for 'Amy Carter's Fabulous Dream Adventure,' which traps us for too long in the musical-comedy absurdity of a 12-year-old's dream, the brief pieces enchant and inform with an eclectic mix of post-Sondheim modernism, bluesy riffs and swingy styles that are very much his own." Full Review

NY Theatre Guide

"Overall, 'First Daughter Suite' is an enjoyable musical with enough entertainment and interesting looks at American history to overcome its slower points. The music tussles within each act between strong, powerfully emotive arrangements and songs that sound like they can play in an elevator. Yet the cast does a good job of showing how much strength it takes to be the women behind the men leading America." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"It's intelligent, complex, beautifully sung and like a fool, I'm going to need some time to catch up with it...Every piece featured strong performances, but only the wacky antics on display in 'Amy Carter's Fabulous Dream Adventure' proved what dizzying heights LaChiusa's concept could reach...The musical strengths of each section will need time with a hoped-for cast album to come...Despite my cavils, in short, I'd like to hear more." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Ambitious, Unusual, Great performers, Fun subject matter, Difficult score

See it if you love LaChiusa's work. FDS is highly polished: beautifully staged, well acted/sung, great production values. Stories are wild fictions.

Don't see it if you don't like LaC's music or are easily confused. Knowledge of the characters helps in following the plots. Still, terrific performances.

Also I'm catching up on old reviews. I enjoyed FDS, especially for the spec... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Entertaining

See it if you like a historical story told in segments- this was a surprisingly wonderful experience

Don't see it if you don't have some basic knowledge in the families portrayed- you will miss some of the meaning

Ambitious, Disappointing, Great singing, Muddled, Fantasy

See it if Not the best LaChuisa score but the singing is still brilliant. A little shrill but gamely, masterfully sung. Look out for these actors.

Don't see it if you're expecting a history lesson. This show is disappointingly mostly fantasy and doesn't illuminate much about these women's lives. Uneven

Original, Clever

See it if you want to see Alison Fraser being absolutely incredible.

Don't see it if you don't like Michael John LaChiusa stuff.

Ambitious, Interesting, Historical, Voyeuristic

See it if You appreciatethe great musicals that originate at the Public Theater. Interesting take on American history through eyes of First Ladies

Don't see it if You want a more traditional or upbeat evening in the theater.

Original, Quirky, Indulgent, Excruciating, Slow

See it if You love Michael John LaChiusa and will see anything he writes.

Don't see it if You don't enjoy more experimental music theater.

Original, Ambitious, Uneven, Accessible

See it if Usually find LaChiusa too dissonant and detached. Want to support complicated and substantial female roles onstage.

Don't see it if Require plot and action. Looking for pure entertainment.

Original, Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Quirky, Entertaining

See it if you're curious about the lives of recent first ladies/daughters... or for a hysterical dream sequence involving two first families on a boat

Don't see it if you like your musicals to be showy and grand... this one is more subdued.

Indulgent, Banal, Confusing, Disappointing, Slow

See it if You don't mind pointless rambling.

Don't see it if You have literally any other theatre-going option in front of you.

Ambitious, Confusing, Disappointing

See it if you are interested in history, but already know a lot of it.

Don't see it if you don't know a lot about the presidents in the second half of the 20th century.

Clever, Banal, Confusing, Disappointing, Dated

See it if you love American history and political satires/comedies about women.

Don't see it if you like focused narratives and narrators. This is a series of vignettes that are very out of the box.

Ambitious, Great acting, Disappointing, Disjointed, Bizarre

See it if You want great performances by an all-female cast, ambitious material; you enjoy LaChiusa's work. The second act is better than the first.

Don't see it if you want something cohesive, consistent, and not incredibly weird.

Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Great writing, Great singing

See it if you want to see an all-star cast perform beautifully orchestrated songs or if you enjoy the work of Michael John LaChiusa.

Don't see it if you don't understand the historical context or don't want to see a series of largely unrelated musical vignettes.

Original, Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if you like intelligent and thought-provoking musicals. Has exquisite music that, for this composer, is actually accessible. Fantastic acting.

Don't see it if you have NO knowledge of modern presidential history. It won't be as much fun without knowing a little something about these women.

Absorbing, Enchanting, Great acting, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if you enjoy the work of Michael John LaChiusa, especially "First Lady Suite>. you enjoy fine performances from a group of fine actresses.

Don't see it if you are not a history or politics fan. Also, if you shy away from unconventional theatre.

Great acting, Indulgent, Disappointing, Overrated, Slow

See it if You enjoy great acting in musicals and you don't mind repetition.

Don't see it if You get bored easily.

Ambitious partly successful musical fantasy

See it if you enjoy a variety of musical genres to portray fraught First Lady/Daughter relationships; Nancy Reagan/Patti Davis scene is memorable

Don't see it if you want to see a musical that is more than a series of unrelated skits, and prefer sonorous melodies to atonal recitative

Funny, Absorbing, Clever, Delightful, Entertaining

See it if great song writing. great singing. fascinating idea.

Don't see it if it's not that driving and the last scene felt forced

Ambitious, Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Quirky

See it if you love LaChiusa.

Don't see it if you're a person who whines about not being able to hum the tunes of a score that is more ambitious than those of Jerry Herman.

Disappointing, Slow, Dated

See it if you want to see a brilliant, star-studded cast. But don't expect much, the show is complete crap otherwise.

Don't see it if you're Iranian (a topic they sang about at length) and if you don't care about any of the 20th century presidents. I left at intermission.

Funny, Original, Quirky, Slow, Entertaining

See it if You are interested in seeing musical portrayals of some of our First Ladies.

Don't see it if You don't like satire and shows done in skit form.

Dated, Limited appeal, Disjointed, Trying to be sondheim but no

See it if You are over 45 and remember - and care - about the first daughters in the White House; you enjoy Sondheim-ish (very ish) atonality

Don't see it if You are too young to know about any of the first daughters before the Bush girls and your baseline for musicals is Sondheim/Miranda

Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Masterful, Great staging

See it if You're a fan of LaChiusa or other intelligent nonlinear non traditional musicals

Don't see it if You tend to like big blockbuster easy to swallow musicals. This isn't that.

Original, Clever, Masterful, Profound, Resonant

See it if You enjoy thoughtful and original takes on historical figures, sophisticated music and lyrics, and great performances. Gorgeous score.

Don't see it if You require a long narrative story, or spectacle, as the show is a simply staged series of four unrelated vignettes.

Original, Ambitious, Great acting, Great singing, Uneven

See it if beautiful singing and performances from a talented female cast is enough to overcome uneven segments. But the highlights outweigh the lesser

Don't see it if First Families or LaChiusa music is not your thing, and despite interesting moments and great perfs, not enough to cover more boring parts.