Closed 2h 15m
Southern Comfort
East Village
75

Southern Comfort NYC Reviews and Tickets

75%
(54 Reviews)
Positive
67%
Mixed
29%
Negative
4%
Members say
Relevant, Thought-provoking, Great acting, Original, Resonant

About the Show

The Public Theater presents a new musical based on Kate Davis’ 2001 Sundance Award-winning documentary about transgender friends in rural Georgia.

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Member Reviews (54)

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50
Cliched, Ambitious, Slow, Disappointing, Unmemorable

See it if you feel it's important to support a show about transgendered couples. They handle the subject respectfully.

Don't see it if you are looking for another ground-breaking musical from The Public. (This isn't it!)

71
Thoughtful explication of indignities of being transgender and movement infighting but not altogether convincing theatrically

See it if you enjoy clever use of backup country & western band as singers/characters in cast; lays bare visceral parent rejection

Don't see it if similar country & western songs bore you; production blunts impact by checking off too many transgender issues

Critic Reviews (36)

March 13th, 2016

"It’s the spirited, tuneful country score and the colorful characters that draw us close to the emotional ups and downs of Robert’s family. This cast is entirely winning...As sung by characters who would likely not be welcomed at the Grand Ole Opry anytime soon, the songs take on an almost radical charge...For the most part this musical avoids the trap of sentimentality. And it’s fitting that the show errs on the side of largess, granting characters their full, complicated humanity."
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March 14th, 2016

"This heartfelt, well-meaning production seems like a dated period piece...Its characters' journeys of self-discovery and love moved me to tears...However I was acutely aware of just how repetitive, traditional and safe the show is...There's still beauty here...Robert's budding romance with the transitioning Lola is the heart of the story. Watching him gleefully court her, political notions of gender and identity fall away and the show's finely tuned message translates into explosive emotions."
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March 13th, 2016

"The book succumbs to a tone of sentimentality and special pleading; the songs are pretty but mostly monochromatic. Oddly enough, they are also too generic. (They are filled with snorey clichés.) This leaves the cast working hard — too hard — under Thomas Caruso’s stiff direction...If worthiness were the same as stageworthiness, 'Southern Comfort' would be as effective as its source. But this is material that, however much it cries out for justice, simply doesn’t sing."
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March 13th, 2016

"'Southern Comfort' suffers at times from its lack of narrative momentum and languorous pace, and the bluegrass/country flavored musical score does little to enliven it, with far too many emotive ballads of self-empowerment in the mix. Still, there are some lovely songs and it's performed well...This is a show that clearly has its heart in the right place, displaying a compassion toward its well-etched characters that is impossible not to share."
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March 13th, 2016

"It is important to see transgender people as people, to see their lives and struggles depicted in art. But what’s on stage here is admirable, worthy, and almost painfully dull...It is possible, in a world of 'Transparent' and Laverne Cox, that the culture simply has bypassed 'Southern Comfort' while the musical was busy gestating...There is something inspiring, yes, in seeing this story told on a major New York stage. But it’s a shame that it’s told so uncompellingly."
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March 13th, 2016

"As a piece of theater, the show rolls over and plays dead. The only unqualified successes in this inert production at the Public Theater are the stunning set and lighting design...The talky lyrics prove to be too much of a mouthful. And director Thomas Caruso seems to have let everyone more or less make it up as they go along."
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March 13th, 2016

"The Public’s Anspacher Theater, with its steeply raked audience that focuses the audience up close and personal on the action unfolding on the stage, is the perfect setting for this beautiful and heartfelt show...The book and lyrics by Dan Collins and music by Julianne Wick Davis are of a piece with the story and include several gems...It’s a beautiful show; bring the family."
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March 13th, 2016

"With an engaging bluegrass score, a particularly lovely company, and wrenching honesty, this production really sings...'Southern Comfort' does have a tendency to feel like a simplified and somewhat preachy primer on trans issues. And the casting of only two trans actors still isn't enough. However, the piece treats its subjects with a great deal of respect and humanity...With issues of trans identity coming to the fore, 'Southern Comfort' is a beautiful entry into an important conversation."
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March 14th, 2016

"For the most part, 'Southern Comfort' seems more concerned with educating audiences on transgender issues than with storytelling...The chamber-style country score, while possessing lively moments, leans toward melancholy too often. More diverse emotional textures are needed. 'Souther Comfort' is certainly a noble effort, and the desire to educate audiences is an understandable urge. Despite its flaws, the emotions expressed are heart-tugging, well played and sincere."
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March 13th, 2016

"This is first and foremost a message show—and plays like it...You need look no further than the likes of 'Show Boat,' 'South Pacific,' 'The King and I,' and any number of other familiar titles to see how big, socially relevant topics can be treated in thoughtful ways and still deliver on magic and entertainment. Alas, 'Southern Comfort,' as rich in advocacy as it might be, is dirt poor when it comes to those two vital qualities."
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March 20th, 2016

"'Southern Comfort' is an ambitious and admirable attempt to depict a community that till now has been left off of our stages. Though the material at times seems tamer that the content would warrant, it is ultimately a very moving musical. It also is a showcase for Annette O’Toole to give one of the finest performances of the season."
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March 19th, 2016

"'Southern Comfort’ comes off strong in the good works department but less so as memorable theatre...It’s understandable that the narrative line for a musical has to be more dramatic than its documentary source, but when every emotion is expressed not only in dialogue but in nearly two dozen not especially distinctive songs, most of them iterating some aspect of transgender problems, the effect leans toward the didactic and treacly."
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March 13th, 2016

"This 'Southern Comfort' is better than ever...Though faithful to the film and its sensibility, Dan Collins and Julianne Wick Davis have expanded the cast to create a full-bodied show about a marginalized group of people who struggle not only with their fears of public exposure and condemnation, but with accepting themselves...My complaint about that over long first act is a minor quibble, as is that all that heartfelt twanging can occasionally feel repetitious."
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March 14th, 2016

"The Public Theater continues its tradition of presenting groundbreaking theater in an accessible setting with the folk-bluegrass musical 'Southern Comfort'...Out of a mostly forgettable score, one song stands out...The creators of the show are quite sensitive to the issues surrounding being transgender...Hopefully, 'Southern Comfort' will bring a lot of comfort to transgender audiences."
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March 14th, 2016

"Its novelty has diminished since it was first conceived, and perhaps some of its importance. There is also a struggle to give this musical an overall shape...The creative team has placed 19 songs, and several reprises – all of which are tuneful, some of which are moving or amusing, a few of which are repetitive enough to have been cut without discernible damage...All through 'Southern Comfort' are worthwhile moments of insight and emotion."
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March 15th, 2016

"This touching and heartfelt show is sure to move you…The book and lyrics by Dan Collins and bluegrass score by Julianne Wick Davis are musical gems…This cast is remarkable, but it is Ms. O’Toole who immerses herself so much into the character, she disappears and we only see Robert. Right now, this is the performance to beat as the best of the year."
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March 14th, 2016

"If 'Southern Comfort' has a meaningful story to tell, it falters in its telling. Maybe the traditional story structures of conflict, climax and resolution are themselves too normative, but creating satisfying alternatives remains difficult...The songs have a certain sameness and too often re-articulate material from the book...Still, it’s pleasure enough to spend an afternoon or evening among these characters."
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March 24th, 2016

"Something has been lost on the way from thinking about the social justice message to the shaping of the material into a musical for the stage. Sadly, the book is overwhelmingly pedantic and the songs fail to reveal much about the characters or to move the plot forward...It’s hard not to care about the characters, and to appreciate the heart-felt performances of the actors. But if you want a model to emulate when telling such an important story, try 'Fun Home'."
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B
March 13th, 2016

"While the book is mostly faithful to the essentials of the film, it makes things a bit more schematic. As I am not a fan of country/bluegrass music, I did not really enjoy the score. To my ears, much of the music seemed monotonous and repetitive...Thomas Caruso’s direction is seamless. The entire cast, especially O’Toole and McCarthy, are excellent. Although, for me, the music did not really enhance the story, it is still a moving and timely tale that I am glad will be seen by new audiences."
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March 13th, 2016

"Needless to say, 'Southern Comfort' is not your typical musical. But it is an overly earnest one. The songs by Collins and Julianne Wick Davis aren’t as numbingly didactic as 'I Am What I Am' from 'La Cage aux Folles,' but a few anthems come close, and none of the music is very memorable. What does impress is that the victims on stage are all survivors, and that includes the one who’s dying."
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March 14th, 2016

"The various cast members playing the assortment of characters in Robert’s life are excellent, and the theme of we are who we are and proud of it gets excellent treatment throughout...The production is seductive, drawing us into the transgender world and eliciting respect and sympathy for the characters living according to their deeply felt identities. 'Southern Comfort' is an important socially conscious statement as well as admirably creative."
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March 23rd, 2016

"The plot centers around several questions that transgender people have to confront...That's a lot to load onto a musical and 'Southern Comfort' has some trouble balancing all of it. Members of the transgender community have criticized the show for downplaying the way doctors failed to treat the real-life Eads and the production for failing to cast transgender actors in all the roles...Both O'Toole and McCarthy are cisgendered but they're also terrific in their roles."
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March 16th, 2016

"An enjoyable middle-of-the-road bluegrass musical...If not for the subject matter, director Thomas Caruso’s production of this might seem like one of those jaunty, old-fashioned little countrified musicals...Annette O’Toole is terrific, and unrecognizable, as Robert, born Barbara…The sound is sometimes overly familiar; the resolutions are a bit pat. Even so, we keep realizing that the unpretentious breakthrough of a show expresses feelings and ideas never onstage before."
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March 24th, 2016

"At first, you wonder if the show will flounder in an excess of sugar, with the characters all smiles and hugs and good will. But conflict arrives in several forms...The musical, which has been in development for years, could also use some pruning to lessen repetition and increase momentum. But even taken as it is, 'Southern Comfort' is a success — a warm-hearted, affecting portrait of people who, whatever barriers they face, have achieved the contentment of finding their essential selves."
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March 21st, 2016

"The story has touching elements, but the standout is James J. Fenton’s beautiful set. The band trumps the actors in this respect. More disconcerting, in this particular production, is to hear traditional musical theater-style singing over folksy bluegrass instrumentation. In fairness, audience members would probably enjoy a concert of the 'Southern Comfort' band; it was impeccable. One suspects they would also like the documentary the musical is based on better than the musical."
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M
March 14th, 2016

"With their uniformly bluegrass emphasis, the songs after awhile begin to sound pretty much alike. They also tend to instill over the proceedings a fairly soft focus; some grit might be useful. While compelling for the most part, the proceedings rarely become electrifying, and in its final moments it threatens to become a bit of a sentimental weepie. In the overall, it’s the subject matter rather than presentation that gives 'Southern Comfort' its groundbreaking importance."
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March 7th, 2016

"There's a lot that is conventional about 'Southern Comfort' despite its subject matter. The show is simply, effectively staged. The musicians take on the supporting roles. Julianne Wick Davis's music is pleasant, but forgettable. James J. Fenton has designed an attractive, rural looking unit set. Ultimately, this is what Stephen Sondheim would call a 'why' musical. Why turn this powerful film into a musical? It made me want to go back and look at the film again."
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March 21st, 2016

"It is a thoughtful and timely piece on the discoveries that individuals encounter on the transgender journey. A full-fledged production with sophisticated arrangements and a catchy bluegrass folk score, it features sublime harmonies that seem to melt on a hot piece of cornbread...The perfect blend of the cast and The Storytellers allow the audience to become absorbed into the show and setting."
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October 12th, 2011
For a previous production

"What distinguishes this respectful adaptation is less the sorrow of the haunting true story than the spirit of forgiveness and tolerance that infuses it...The show ambles a bit at 2 hours, 20 minutes, and its gentle, rootsy score overloads on heart-tugging emotional ballads. But the entire cast responds well to sensitive direction."
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October 11th, 2011
For a previous production

"In order to give the show a clear dramatic arc, the writers take a lot of liberties with real-life details, and the second act gets bogged down in a series of cliches. But such flaws don't ruin the overall story's power. There's much to admire here: the fabulous, five-person band, sensitive direction of a committed cast. 'Southern Comfort' is different, beautiful and lovable, just like its heroes."
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October 7th, 2011
For a previous production

"For a musical that advocates for transgender pride, 'Southern Comfort' does itself little favor by its inconsistent casting...The result is some serious confusion on the audience's part, as one has to keep reminding oneself who started out where and what kind of journey was involved."
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October 7th, 2011
For a previous production

"Emotion alone is not enough to make a good musical. If a book and score do not work in concert to elevate their subject they invariably end up wallowing in it, which is exactly the fate that befalls 'Southern Comfort'...It captures and unleashes a plethora of details that should tug the heartstrings but come closer to drowning you in misery — when they’re not putting you to sleep, that is."
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July 24th, 2013
For a previous production

"The bluegrass score is beautifully sung and includes numerous ear pleasing and heart-touching ballads...The heartfelt twanging gets to be a bit repetitious and at close to two and a half hours (with intermission) even the unusual story and fine acting, singing, and stagecraft ultimately test the audience's appetite for all this treacly sincerity."
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July 24th, 2013
For a previous production

"Surrounding this cast is an ensemble of players who are the most amazing folks on our regional stages today...It just brings the expressiveness of a great show about fascinating people who illuminate the perfections of love and trust and humane behavior. 'Southern Comfort' is the best new show I’ve seen, bar none!"
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October 7th, 2011
For a previous production

"The story of a community of transgender individuals in Georgia is hard to hear at times. The complicated characters evoke sympathy, but they never get beyond their sexual identity. As they continually beg for acceptance, their plea starts to sound like a broken record. The story isn't uninteresting, though."
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October 17th, 2011
For a previous production

"This polished and nuanced production has the relaxed and comfortable feel of an off-Broadway hit enjoying a long run...Fluid direction nimbly handles the script’s shifts from naturalistic scenes to documentary-style direct address, to the more abstract moments when the musicians enter the story as peripheral characters. The pace is leisurely at times, but does not drag."
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