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.

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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.

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See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

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


"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


"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

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

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

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


"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

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

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

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

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


"'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

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

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


"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

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


"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

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


"'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

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

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

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


"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

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews

Relevant, Resonant, Overrated, Great singing, Great staging

See it if you want to catch an original, at times moving, true story of a young musical theatre writing team who travels to Africa to help educate

Don't see it if you want Rent rather than Tick Tick Boom.

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.

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.

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.

Funny, Original, Ambitious, Relevant, Great staging

See it if You can appreciate sparks of brilliance and heart in a muddled show. Energetic dancing. Emotional. Inspiring.

Don't see it if This lacked a compelling story aside from the charitable aspect. There are good pieces here but they don't work as a whole.

Original, Disappointing, Entertaining

See it if you enjoy seeing original and diverse stories and plots.

Don't see it if you tend to look for more profound interpretations of original and diverse stories and plots.

Original, Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Indulgent

See it if you want to see something that has a strong message inspiring social change.

Don't see it if you don't like shows about people going off to "find themselves."

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".

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.

Indulgent, Entertaining

See it if About finding ones roots

Don't see it if Indulgent

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.

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.

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

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.

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, 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.

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

Original, Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Personal, Heartfelt

See it if you are open to a true story with a global message. Contemporary/rockish style music okay. More plot development needed but worth seeing.

Don't see it if you have no interest in learning about other cultures and their oppression. Difficult topic but easily digestible - good singing/dancing.

Great acting, Indulgent, Disappointing, Cliched, Entertaining

See it if you want to see really amazing acting and singing with spot-on humour and uplifting numbers

Don't see it if you want songs in a musical to advance the plot, to have a substantial plot, and a lead and lead relationship that has stakes

Original, Ambitious, Entertaining, High energy, Poor writing

See it if you enjoy high-energy shows with weak books and a director using smoke and mirrors to hide the book's problems.

Don't see it if your taste is above a work in progress. Sketchy writing and cliche-ridden.

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.

Great choreography, Great voices, Overly ambitious, Book needs work, Rent in uganda

See it if you enjoy a hard working cast that have beautiful voices and dance well. There is an exuberance that bubbles to the top.

Don't see it if you require a concise story to enjoy a musical. The book needs work, too confusing.

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.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great staging

See it if A most professional and polished production with fine choreography, excellent acting, and a touching and interesting story worth seeing!

Don't see it if If the political stance in Uganda regarding gays upsets you.

Indulgent, Banal, Disappointing, Cliched, Fluffy

See it if you want a loud, upbeat, unchallenging musical

Don't see it if you seek subtlety or complexity or a plot that makes sense

To see or not to see (0)

Cast & Creatives (24)