New York | 2h 10m | Already closed


From 16 critic and 10 member reviews
Members say: Ambitious, Original, Slow, Confusing, Quirky

About the show

Lincoln Center Theater presents 'Preludes,' a musical fantasia set in the hypnotized mind of Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff. More…

After the disastrous premiere of his first symphony, the young Rachmaninoff suffers from writer’s block. He begins daily sessions with a therapeutic hypnotist, in an effort to overcome depression and return to composing.

2h 10m | Already closed | Claire Tow Theater (Upper W Side)

The New York Times

"Writer’s block turns out to be a lot more inspiring than you could ever have imagined — and sad and stirring and gloriously fun. In 'Preludes' Dave Malloy makes beautiful music out of a composer’s three years of creative silence...Mr. Malloy and Ms. Chavkin have delivered the best musical about art’s agonies since 'Sunday in the Park With George...' This smashing production says that the American musical is not only not dead but also growing luxuriantly in places you never expected." Full Review

Broad Street Review

"What makes 'Preludes' such a marvelous show is the ingenious theatricality with which Malloy and his gifted collaborator, director Rachel Chavkin, chose to dramatize the inner workings of Rachmaninoff’s mind...But that’s only one of the arresting techniques...The coup de théâtre comes with the fateful performance of the Symphony No. 1 in D Minor." Full Review

New York Post

"Malloy’s playfulness is paired with a deep knowledge and love for his subject. The songs display Malloy’s conversational flair and his gift for aching melody. The show could have used more of that unfiltered emotion — it loses focus jumping back and forth, and sometimes gets just a little too clever. The one constant is Malloy’s talent, which, amazingly, isn’t crushed by Rachmaninoff’s long shadow." Full Review

The Huffington Post

"Compelling? Yes. Entirely successful as a play, or as a musical whatnot? Not quite. But 'Preludes' is an exciting experiment...'Preludes' earns a high recommendation. Surely, you're unlikely to see anything quite like it." Full Review


"Anachronisms and malaprops abound, some of the humor is sophomoric and at a couple of points the whole thing comes perilously close to tweenosity. But in the end 'Preludes' is an involving and ultimately moving story about the unknowable ebbs and flows of creativity that artists fear, sometimes master, sometimes fall victim to and invariably navigate over the course of a lifetime. As recreated here, it’s a most intriguing and engaging journey down the rabbit hole of artistic accomplishment." Full Review

Theatre Reviews by John Clum

"I hated this show at first, but it slowly won me over, not to love, but to a respect for what it was doing...The unconventional style of some of Malloy's music doesn't move me, but it's partly my problem. Yet the second half of 'Preludes' has some truly beautiful ballads...'Preludes' won me over. I'm tempted to go again. It's unconventional, but fascinating." Full Review


"The show is alternately enlightening and tiresome. Malloy and Chavkin find an intriguingly theatrical way to translate the experience of writer's block to the stage in all its arduous and disorienting 'Rach' meanders through his raw past and stifled present, we the audience sink into his life's lulling monotony and our interest unfortunately begins to waver." Full Review


"'Preludes' will please some and puzzle others...The problem is that its surreal premise grows thin and it all goes on too long. When Dahl and Rach aren't in the spotlight, it's sometimes difficult to pin down the supporting characters. Tchaikovsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov fade in and out of scenes rather quickly. And with the same actor playing them, it can get mighty confusing...'Preludes' hits some flat notes, but Malloy has reclaimed the salad days of this great composer without sentimentali... Full Review


"For all the fancy stagecraft, nothing in this ingeniously staged but overlong and self-indulgent piece comes close to giving the same transporting pleasure as Matias’s ravishing piano playing...In the end, it proves more exhausting than entertaining (or even uplifting) to follow Rach’s loopy thoughts and Malloy’s mannered musicianship. And when the lights come up on all this noisy spectacle, what lingers in the mind is the composer’s deeply felt but simply stated wish: 'I would like to be re... Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"For all the intense effort and vivid conception that have clearly gone into this show, the overriding impression you receive is not of a brilliant mind stifled, but one that was given far too much free rein...If Malloy's songs tend to sound overly meandering or casual, they're hardly terrible. The same cannot easily be said of the other techniques Malloy and Chavkin employ, which veer more toward the haphazard and soulless...The roar of anticlimax is deafening. 'Preludes' might run 80 or 90 ... Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"A load of talent and resources has been thrown at this ambitious bio-drama, which features some rhapsodic music and glorious singing. However, the distancing show is too clever by half; it's dense, exhausting and pretentious...The creative team twists itself inside out trying to make artist's block theatrical and involving. But it can’t be done; at least not here...Nonetheless, the production looks and sounds terrific." Full Review


"The score for 'Preludes,' which is the best part of the evening, consists of straight Rachmaninoff...There's no consistent sense that what we see emanates from Rachmaninoff's altered brain. Other than a busy, askew scenic design and some lighting effects, things are pretty prosaic...Another issue is that the stakes just don't seem very high. Rachmaninoff is frustrated but hardly devastated by his block." Full Review

New Jersey Newsroom

"Something of a gorgeous mess, 'Preludes' is the latest music-theater work created by Dave Malloy...The trouble is that the story and the production rick-rack between their past, present, factual, fictional, comical and serious points so much that the proceedings are frequently confusing and wildly uneven in tone. Worse, some of Malloy’s contemporary compositions become terribly overblown...Overlong and certainly more overelaborate than it need be, 'Preludes' is an extremely ambitious work th... Full Review

Entertainment Weekly

"Malloy’s inspiration also proves to be an impediment. Rachmaninoff’s music dominates the proceedings...More often than not, they’re keeping us from hearing Rachmaninoff’s music. As Chekhov tells Rach, 'use more silence.' If you were wondering what the heck Chekhov is doing here, you wouldn’t be the only one...Malloy does call 'Preludes' a 'musical fantasia,' but there’s a fine line between the creative and the chaotic." Full Review

New York Daily News

"If only the show had heart to go with the brains. You can’t help but wish for more emotional payoff...Feels more like a well-performed but dry-eyed thesis.. The music comes and goes — Malloy’s compositions the paler of the two. If you’re looking for a sense of connection, 'Preludes' leaves you between a Rach and a hard place." Full Review

Time Out New York

"Preludes feels boneless and blobby: a two-hour mishmash of navel-gazing vignettes about the difficulty of being an artist, scored with snatches of classical music and meandering arioso... Flashes of intelligence notwithstanding, Preludes is largely hermetic and dull. " Full Review

Enchanting, Entertaining, Ambitious, Great acting, Great staging

See it if you love contemporary, innovative stagings and plays, classical Russian music, actors playing multiple characters.

Don't see it if you want light fare, you're not in the mood for a thinker.

Ambitious, Clever, Edgy, Great writing, Original

See it if You enjoy unique theatre and loved Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.

Don't see it if You're easily confused.

Ambitious, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if you're interested in Russian history, classical music.

Don't see it if you want a linear, easy to follow story.

Ambitious, Great staging, Excruciating, Indulgent, Slow

See it if You like to experience new, very artistic, very ambitious music theater.

Don't see it if You can't stand slowly-paced, overly intelligent work.

Thought-provoking, Romantic, Original, Great acting, Slow

See it if You enjoy classical music and want to see a play about Rachmaninoff having writer's block.

Don't see it if The topic of a musician's writers block doesn't interest you and/or you don't like classical music

Ambitious, Confusing, Dizzying, Intelligent

See it if you're a fan of gabriel ebert, rachel chavkin, dave malloy, or virtuosic piano playing.

Don't see it if you're expecting genius on the level of great comet.

Ambitious, Disappointing, Dizzying, Original, Quirky

See it if beautiful singing and an impressive cast can make of a complicated story. (Amazing sound design and a cool set help though).

Don't see it if an ambitiously complicated story structured to reflect Rachmaninoff's life and creative inspirations adds little to our understanding.

Ambitious, Edgy, Quirky, Original

See it if you're an artist who's suffered failure and writer's block; you like daring theater that's trying something new; you're a Rachmaninoff fan.

Don't see it if you like your musical theater straightforward and do not appreciate experimental approaches; you are an orthodox classical music lover.

Confusing, Disappointing, Slow

See it if you are a big Rachmaninoff fan or not familiar with Dave Malloy's work.

Don't see it if you love Dave Malloy and are hoping for another Great Comet or Ghost Quartet. Just so disappointing when you know what Malloy is capable of.

Ambitious, Clever, Entertaining, Great singing, Resonant

See it if Fan of classical music history, avant-garde and electronica.

Don't see it if if youre "so small and stupid that you can't hear anything new"

Cast & Creatives

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