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Invisible Thread

From 24 critic and 99 member reviews
Members say: Absorbing, Original, Entertaining, Thought-provoking, Great staging

About the show

American Repertory Theater and Second Stage Theatre present a new musical directed by Diane Paulus. It follows the life-changing journey of a young New Yorker who volunteers for a humanitarian aid project in Uganda. More…

Determined to find his place in the world, 20-something Griffin leaves his job and his New York City apartment to volunteer for a charity in Africa. But when his altruistic aspirations collide with the real world, his life is changed in unexpected and profound ways. Inspired by a true story, this rousing new musical infuses a world pop score with African beats in a journey about discovering whether changing the world is even possible.


"The musical explores themes of prejudice based on sexual orientation and race; and, at its most intriguing, the nature and practice of charity…Paulus knows how to put together an entertainment. With an experienced creative team and a uniformly impressive cast, 'Invisible Thread' conjures up the memory of several polished Broadway musicals…The many strands of 'Invisible Thread' largely work well together—the song and dance, the social consciousness, and the sentiment." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"'Invisible Thread,' isn't the most successful; in fact, it has some pretty big issues that cry out to be addressed. But it dares to take on a difficult, complex subject, and it has an enormous heart...In its best moments, 'Invisible Thread' is remarkably clear-eyed about the cultural clashes that separate its characters...Still, the opening section feels rushed and too sketchily set up...Diane Paulus' direction gets powerful, full-throated performances." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

"Historical facts blend with infusions of melodrama, and some of the material goes a bit too far in amping up the emotional dynamics...Lots of African-inflected music is heard; there’s also an abundance of narrative-driven numbers in the relatively tuneless, big-voiced style so common nowadays...Diane Paulus takes brilliant advantage of the music to inject loads of physicality into the production; her vivid staging succeeds in making the proceedings literally jump off the stage." Full Review


"'Invisible Thread' is a traditional book musical featuring a vibrant score with African, African-American, and Broadway sounds. The libretto conveys Griffin's odyssey with utmost economy, one scene blending fluidly into the next... If 'Invisible Thread' doesn't fulfil all the expectations aroused by the awards and buzz it attracted as it homed in on New York, it nonetheless doesn't disappoint." Full Review

AM New York

"It ends on a somewhat unresolved and downbeat note. But for the most part, 'Invisible Thread' is a highly personalized but relatable and heartfelt coming-of-age story that explores issues of culture clash and global responsibility. The attractive score combines pop-rock with African rhythms and gospel. Paulus' production features a very effective visual design (with great use of video projections) and strong performances from the mostly black ensemble cast." Full Review

Bob's Theater Blog

"This energetic, ambitious, inspirational musical is now raising the roof at Second Stage Theatre...The songs run the gamut from generic ballads to rousing African-infused numbers. The show’s title is the title of one of the less interesting songs. An orchestra of nine supply the music. The appealing cast is very good...Director Diane Paulus pulls it all together with panache. I hope that they adjust the amplification so that the big numbers are not ear-splitting." Full Review

Broadway & Me

"This is a genuinely appealing show even if the storytelling is a little muddled...'Invisible Thread' offers some pointed observations about the assumptions that westerners too often make about Africa, even if the show indulges in a few of its own...Still, it's hard to complain when you leave a show feeling good and knowing that your ticket price may be doing some good too." Full Review

The Associated Press

"Paulus stages the energetic proceedings with a careful eye for both small moments and high-voltage, ensemble dance numbers...Pulsating musical numbers combine a vibrant, layered pop score and earnest lyrics with African beats....It’s a palatable, deeply Western perspective on living in poverty under a repressive government...Despite the rosy prism coloring the social issues, this musical has a good heart." Full Review

The Wrap

"There’s nothing tragic or unresolved about what Griffin and Ryan do...Gould and Matthews’s percussive score, fortunately, starts with a bang and blankets over these shortcomings in exposition, as does Sergio Trujillo and Darrell Grand Moultrie’s energetic African-based choreography...With 'Invisible Thread,' director Diane Paulus eschews the circus gimmickry and pyrotechnics to embrace a minimalist approach that suits the material to perfection." Full Review


"'Invisible Thread' showcases a tremendous amount of talent. That talent is at present mostly imitative: 'Invisible' mimics the musical versatility and determination-in-the-face-of-defeat of 'Rent' without advancing the form. But the show is bursting with potential, not to mention infectious energy, humor and a few surprises...But by the end, 'Invisible Thread' drowns in a pool of sentiment and cliché." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Given its heavyweight underpinnings, it’s remarkable how lightweight 'Invisible Thread' often seems...It’s hard to get invested in the somewhat predictable story line, but it’s easy to get hooked on the personages who populate the stage...The African themed choreography fails to impress...Diane Paulus’s direction is of the highest order: barely noticeable. She lets 'Invisible Thread' speak for itself. The musical doesn’t dig very deep, but it’s food – comfort food to be sure – for thought." Full Review

As Her World Turns

"Its music is vibrant and there are a handful of numbers I will eagerly download should they receive funding to produce a cast album...But the story itself is missing something...There is probably a more compelling way to get across the same message through dramatic license instead of telling the story beat-for-beat the way it actually unfolded. That said, these guys have put together a show they should be proud of." Full Review


"It feels like a musical college essay, the type in which an applicant waxes philosophical about the very important lessons he learned volunteering for a summer in the developing world. Still, the music is tuneful and the book touches on some vital issues, if only slightly...the cast rarely slows to catch its breath in the frenetic staging... Sadly, not every story is best served by the conventions of the American book musical." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"The production, overcompensating for the possibility, leaves no room for unauthorized ideas. As is her style, Paulus has staged 'Invisible Thread' within an inch of its life; there is never a dull moment or a part of the picture unactivated...But a show that is less than excellent, and less than true, need not be less than worthwhile. If I wanted to turn down the show’s volume sometimes (literally, too — it’s over-amped) I never wanted to turn it off." Full Review

Reviewing The Drama

"With the specter of that event not far from memory, after seeing 'Invisible Thread' it was difficult not to feel like the entire production was an extended fundraiser, a show meant to bring attention to the Ugandans’ situation...The show appears to have been written with sincerity, and all the collaborators seem fully committed to the project. Yet I can’t shake the feeling that this really is more of a project than a show. Of course, there is still plenty to enjoy and take to heart." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Exuberant and soulful...the show releases gale-force waves of faith, hope and love every time its hardworking cast joins together on gospel wails or Afrobeat jams. The score is bold, fresh and catchy. But when those bracing numbers end, problems begin...Diane Paulus’s slick and muscular production helps cover up some of the less plausible or airbrushed aspects of the story, which is fictionalized to the edge of slight melodrama." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"High spirited, to say the least, and helped along by an excellent cast filled with big voices…Parts of the score are admirable…Some of the songs in the New York sections, though, fall flat. There is also something unconvincing in the story...Diane Paulus does her typical job of directing here, which means that there is unbounded energy across the evening. Too much so, perhaps; true energy is exhilarating but synthetic energy can drag you down." Full Review


"In some ways, this story might have been more effective as a play or even a simple monologue. Instead, we get this rather expansive production...The score also doesn’t add as much to the proceedings as it could...The piece could use some stronger character songs to add some depth... Despite its virtues, the musical is a bit too much of a slender 'Thread' to deserve such a first-class treatment." Full Review


"The show's 'invisible thread' stretches from the two gay American men to the Ugandan teenagers who live in a country with strong anti-gay laws; in the show and in real life, the teens accept the couple. It's also a thread that's keenly felt by the show's cast, most of whom went to Uganda this summer." Full Review

The New York Times

"The music for 'Invisible Thread' is polished, melodic pop-rock in the vein of 'Rent'...But many songs tend to be soul-baring ballads or generic expressions of uplift that fail to advance the story, lending a static quality...there’s something pasted-on about the dancing, as if a musical set in Africa must have joyous, foot-stomping passages or it wouldn’t be authentic. These sequences are not remotely integral to the plot...For all his good intentions, Griffin never move beyond being cultura... Full Review


"In 2005, an actor named Griffin Matthews volunteered to work at an orphanage in Uganda and returned home to start his own charitable organization. The writer-performer drew on that episode in his life for 'Invisible Thread', a musical he wrote with his partner, Matt Gould. But despite the heavy drumming, the show isn’t really about Uganda or African orphans or African anything. It’s about Griffin Matthews...It’s a pretty conceit, but a thin concept for a musical." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"'Invisible Thread' is not poorly written, performed, choreographed, or directed. But its hackneyed, predictable nature and its sacrifice of feelings and dramatic action at the altar of relevance mean that the considerable talent involved is not allowed to make the impact it should... UgandaProject may well have done wonderful things, but it's a challenge to stay awake through 'Invisible Thread' to find out for sure." Full Review


"It would be lovely to be able to say that the authors' valuable experience has been transformed into a comparably worthy musical...What we are meant to embrace in this fishes-out-of-water story is the heart...Alas, for much of the plot-heavy yet repetitious evening, the lead characters seem so clueless about the world and so self-involved that, by the time we learn of their genuine accomplishments, it is too late to like them." Full Review

New York Theatre Guide

Sweet, sincere and sophomoric...The ensuing story of a guy trying to do good because he was looking for his place in the world is interesting but not engaging. The music is all uplifting, and there is some glorious talent, but the songs begin to sound the same after a while...What was intended as an epic tale of a boy turning into a man ends up being a series of bland incidents that feels almost insignificant." Full Review

Ambitious, Clever, Edgy, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if This was one of the best shows I've ever seen. I appreciate seeing theater that focuses on stories and important social issues.

Don't see it if There's no reason to miss this show except that it is no longer playing.

Exquisite, Great acting, Intelligent, Masterful, Great writing

See it if You want to be moved in a way that stays with you long after the play has ended. It was simply one of the best I've seen.

Don't see it if Can't think of one reason not to see this. If I could rank it as 200 I would.

Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Entertaining

See it if you can find it. I was amazed to be pulled into the story so strongly. Made you want to lend a hand.

Don't see it if you don't like new, inventive musicals.

Absorbing, Inspiring

See it if you want to change your life and be pulled into the most inspiring story leaving you speechless

Don't see it if you don't have a heart.

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if If your interested in the story of how a lives can change for the better. And how two men can truly make a difference in the world.

Don't see it if you hate crying, or you believe that no one should be volunteering in developing nations, you hate seeing the real, tough truth of the world

Original, Absorbing, Intense, Must see, Great writing

See it if you like original stories, and passionate story telling.

Don't see it if you're not ready to affected by it.

Funny, Original, Absorbing, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if Next to Hamilton, this is the most important musical I've seen in years. I had a great time, while learning about myself & the world.

Don't see it if you're so old fashioned that you're not interested in anything new and moving.

Absorbing, Great acting, Must see, Resonant, Riveting

See it if You have a heart and want to be told an incredible true story told by a masterful cast

Don't see it if You need a show that is more classical or onstage nudity offends you

Exquisite, Must see, Profound, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you like great music, great set design, and great stories with heart and meaning.

Don't see it if you're turned off by gay themes and shows with a social message.

Original, Delightful, Great acting, Profound, Entertaining

See it if Loved it. The music, the dancing, the story. I was in tears by the end. Moving and entertaining, too.

Don't see it if I can't think of a single reason not to see this. The NY Times was completely wrong about this show.

Original, Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Must see, Moving

See it if you like powerful, fresh new theatre from promising young creators. The most exciting new musical I've seen this season. Go see it!

Don't see it if you can't get tickets because word has gotten out.

Original, Delightful, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if are looking for a musical with a heartfelt story that is well told & acted/performed.

Don't see it if You are looking for an old school musical.

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Must see, Relevant, Great staging

See it if you want a new, original, engaging, story about real people across the world.

Don't see it if you are against homosexual relationships or stories that focus around the issues in Uganda.

Thought-provoking, Masterful, Must see, Relevant, Great writing

See it if If you want to see a wonderfully written show that rings true to current events.

Don't see it if If you want flashy jazz hands and chorus girls doing kick lines.

Delightful, Refreshing, Great staging

See it if you support new works. you enjoy inspirational teacher stories.

Don't see it if are uncomfortable with homosexuality.

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Must see, Profound, Refreshing

See it if You aren't afraid of a show that make you step back and think about hard truths in the world.

Don't see it if You just want another bubble gum movie musical.

Great acting, Must see, Cliched, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you want to hear an ensemble of some of the best voices on Broadway. The staging is powerful and the music truly moves you. Shame it closed.

Don't see it if musical with heavy themes in LGBT and race issues are the focus.

Absorbing, Relevant, Resonant, Indulgent, Great staging

See it if you enjoy theater that's alive and unpredictable.

Don't see it if you like catchy songs and conventional plots

Absorbing, Ambitious, Relevant, Resonant

See it if you like thought-provoking, socially important musical theatre, told with skill and heart.

Don't see it if you like musical theatre fluff, or if you're not open to its complex lessons and messages.

Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Romantic, Entertaining

See it if You're interested in new musicals by new talent, or if you're interested in any topics related to Africa.

Don't see it if You could care less about young people trying to "find themselves".

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great acting, Refreshing, Entertaining

See it if you want a refreshing, original show with captivating music and dynamite performances. Will leave you wanting to make a difference.

Don't see it if you want the music to always advance the plot, need a leading relationship to have higher stakes, don't enjoy musicals with a social message

Original, Refreshing, Entertaining

See it if You want something heartfelt and inspiring .

Don't see it if You don't care for non traditional musicals

Funny, Refreshing, Entertaining, Great singing, Great staging

See it if you like modern, fresh musicals that make a relevant topic charming and funny. Superb cast, great music, and laugh-out-loud moments.

Don't see it if a bit of self-indulgence by the lead actor/creator will bother you. You won't be able to understand Ugandan accents- its not too hard though

Great acting, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if its closed but may pop up again?? entertaining, light story, nice acting and good music

Don't see it if it doesn't pop up again and dont like to be entertained. critics were overly harsh in their reviews.

Funny, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if you want to see a new musical that talks about privilege and helping those "less fortunate".

Don't see it if you are looking for a more traditional night of theater.

Cast & Creatives (24)