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Torch Song (Off-Broadway)

From 35 critic and 373 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Funny, Absorbing, Entertaining, Great writing

About the show

Second Stage presents a revival of Harvey Fierstein's Tony-winning comedy. Starring Drama Desk Award winner Michael Urie ('Ugly Betty,') and Oscar and Tony winner Mercedes Ruehl. More…

Equal parts comic and heart-wrenching, "Torch Song" follows Arnold Beckoff's odyssey to find happiness in New York. All he wants is a husband, a child and a pair of bunny slippers that fit, but a visit from his overbearing mother reminds him that he needs one thing more: respect. Join Arnold on this all too human journey about the families we're born into, the families we choose and the battles to bring them all home. Directed by Tony nominee Moisés Kaufman ("The Laramie Project," "I Am My Own Wife").


"This is a work that feels uniquely of its bygone moment, yet still manages to speak -- urgently, poignantly, often hilariously -- to concerns and anxieties of today. That's one definition of a classic...Kaufman makes the individual sections flow smoothly into a cohesive whole...Urie tackles a role singularly identified with Fierstein and beautifully makes it his own...The entire supporting cast is excellent...Unlikely we'll see a more vibrant or revelatory revival this year." Full Review

The Observer

“’Everything old is new again’ might as well be the theme song for ‘Torch Song’...Under the new title...I am pleased to say it has lost none of its wit, heart, wisdom, poignancy or purpose...The result seems more modern, introspective, and better shaped. The production is well-served by a terrific cast, especially Urie and Ruehl...’Torch Song’ stands as a brave, brilliantly conceived period piece...Timelier than ever.” Full Review


“‘Torch Song’ is every bit as effective as ‘Torch Song Trilogy’ was so many years ago, when it was a brand new play with a punch. It's been directed with a surefire hand by Moisés Kaufman, who, typically, knows what he's doing, as he shuffles his cast on the stage with winning results. He also turns it into a play that shines as if it were new.” Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"Ruehl matches Urie’s Arnold as if they were truly related. Their entanglement is beyond explanation...The play’s true vulnerability lies in the honest depiction of its characters and their struggles with those others that hold that special place in their heart, courtesy of the exacting direction by Moisés Kaufman...It remains, most definitely and defiantly, a profound, hilarious, and deeply affecting experience. One that will be remembered for a lifetime." Full Review

The Clyde Fitch Report

“It’s a first-rate affair under Moisés Kaufman’s typically sensitive and forthright direction...Michael Urie has inherited Fierstein’s five-dimensional role and is wonderful in it. It’s as if he’s inhabited by a whirling dervish aching to escape, a bundle of worried nerves. He cedes the stage only intermittently and he never runs out of charismatic energy...Fierstein’s fiercely, funnily honest writing remains simply paramount. He is a theatrical wonder. So is his play.” Full Review

Gotham Playgoer

"I had forgotten how ahead of his time Fierstein was in his treatment of long-term gay relationships and gay adoption and how forcefully he dealt with the importance of living an authentic life...Urie knows how to get the laughs without straining for them. It helps that he is supported by an excellent cast...The direction by Kaufman has many grace notes throughout...I was happy to find the play alive and kicking and still able to provide an entertaining evening." Full Review

Stage Left

"In Urie, this production under the steady hand of director Moisés Kaufman, has found an actor who can match the authenticity of Fierstein’s performance with a virtuosic talent that is a privilege to observe in motion...The play is both tenderly moving but also absolutely hilarious, showcasing Fierstein’s gift for comedy...This hilarious and touching production is anchored by the virtuosic Michael Urie in a star turn you won’t want to miss." Full Review


“This triumphant and beautifully imagined revival proves that ‘Torch Song’ remains both prophetic and timeless...Urie makes the role unmistakably his own...That ‘Torch Song’ takes Arnold’s journey toward love and acceptance with all seriousness is what made it so groundbreaking more than three decades ago. Of course, the play is also funny as all hell. The cast lands punch lines and navigates nuanced emotional turns with equally exquisite rhythm, thanks to Kaufman’s finely calibrated direction.” Full Review


“It’s hard for me to imagine that it could have been any more enjoyable, funnier, or any more touching that this current trimmer, sleeker incarnation...A not-so-gentle reminder of how far we’ve come...But ‘Torch Song’ is not an openly political act; it’s intensely personal...Urie is one of those remarkable actors who is so exposed that you see the defiance behind the tears and the pain underneath the laughter...At the end, you are drained, moved, and thrilled. This torch lights up the night.” Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

“Fierstein has pruned the script considerably, and director Moisés Kaufman has worked with his cast and designers to make it into a more unified experience... Although definitely a period piece, the day ‘Torch Song’ can be relegated to the shelf has yet to arrive...Fierstein's fiery comedy is a vivid reminder of how far we've come -- also, that change only happens when individuals stand up and say, 'This is how I will live my life.'” Full Review

The New York Times

"This latest incarnation of 'Torch Song'...finds an irresistibly compelling gravity beneath the glibness...Kaufman and Urie make sure we see the vital links between camp comic postures and the genuine fear and pain that lie beneath...Urie and Ruehl take the show to a level of emotional truthfulness that makes objections to ungainly construction feel beside the point...Kaufman’s stirring production propels an ostensible period piece into a vibrant present." Full Review

What Should We Do?

“This new ‘Torch Song’ is still a full-course meal of comedy and heartbreak, stuffed with Arnold’s kvetching and zingers and served by a first-rate crew of actors under the steady hand of Moisés Kaufman...The piece is divided into three parts...The final section, ‘Widows and Children First’, is the meatiest and most hard-hitting...The bell-bottom jeans and cultural references are dated, but Fierstein’s message of love and good parenting will never grow old.” Full Review


"A painfully clear-eyed snapshot of a gay man’s life in 1970s NYC...The new "Torch Song" remains as resonant as ever...It reveals Fierstein to be more than a playwright who can crack wise. He crafts richly nuanced roles, which this excellent company plumbs to the fullest. And a big bravo to Michael Urie...Arnold’s story doesn’t seem all that dated. Fortunately, we have the sublimely plaintive 'Torch Song' with its sad old refrain to remind us how far we have yet to go.” Full Review

The Washington Post

"With the irresistibly antagonistic Michael Urie and Mercedes Ruehl in the marquee roles, the evening feels no less moving, or weighty, than it did all those years ago...At times, the schmaltziness of the humor propels it into Sitcomland...But the framework is eternally affecting and compelling...Urie’s Arnold: It’s a brilliant comic performance, somehow managing fully to reveal both Arnold’s fragility and his power...Ruehl proves to be a scary-wonderful Ma." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"It pulses with the vitality of Fierstein’s script and a virtuoso performance by Michael Urie as Arnold, bolstered by the rest of the excellent cast...Ruehl's timing and instincts are impeccable...Kaufman’s direction is crisp and smooth; everything flows as it should...Revisiting 'Torch Song' is like running into an old friend you didn’t even know you missed, in awe at how good it is to see them." Full Review

Time Out New York

"A welcome and well-assembled revival of Fierstein’s plangently funny and touching play...Director Moisés Kaufman’s production retools it effectively for its new star, the different but very appealing Michael Urie...Kaufman works hard to dispel any scent of schmaltz, sometimes to somewhat dry effect; the central fight between Arnold and his Ma gets a little buried. But the overall approach seems right: It gently and lovingly tends to Fierstein’s flame." Full Review

Theater News Online

“Urie works harder than almost any actor I’ve seen in any part...The one caveat, and not a small one, is that Kaufman hasn’t completely trusted Urie to make Arnold his own creation. Instead, Urie seems to have been asked at times to fall back on Fierstein’s singular rhythms and vocal delivery. These moments, sadly, distract one from the show...Fortunately, they are few and far between...Let’s all be glad that this 'Torch Song' is being sung, and that the amazing Urie is leading the chorus.” Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"Fierstein could have been a bit more merciless...'Torch Song' starts to lose steam by the end of the night. But here’s the good news: For the most part, the production feels like a case of too much of a pretty good thing. It’s charming, intelligent, and, at 40 years old, often strikingly fresh...Urie is making the character undeniably his own...It isn’t that 'Torch Song' never feels dated...But the third act’s raw, desperate explosions between mother and son feel powerfully present." Full Review


"Guided by Moisés Kaufman’s gentle direction, Urie gives a nuanced, emotional performance. Yet he wisely avoids any attempt to channel Fierstein...Urie’s gift for physical comedy keeps the first act entertaining and moving along as the story of love and loss is set up. Some might quibble, though, with his inconsistent Brooklyn accent and less-than-imposing stature...But the real heartbreaker comes in the second act." Full Review

Edge New York

"This streamlined production keeps the poignant, powerful story intact, while making it a bit friendlier and forgiving for a modern stage audience...The simple, unfussy staging is perfectly suited to the action...'Torch Song' emerges as a culturally-relevant play even for our time. The subject matter can be heavy, but the director's light touch transforms it into a poignant and humorous view of a somewhat uncomplicated, pre-AIDS gay world." Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

“Some of the material is a bit dated but, despite the plethora of gay-oriented material in the years that followed, enough remains that is still relevant to audiences today…Urie acts his charming heart out; however, for all his attempts to capture Arnold's unique qualities as a…Jewish homosexual from...Brighton Beach, Urie remains as far from Arnold as Easter eggs are from Hanukkah gelt…For New York authenticity one need only listen to Jackson Heights-raised Mercedes Ruehl as Arnold's mother.” Full Review


“Urie proves a terrific choice, exuding a fluttery energy that draws you in…If director Moisés Kaufman's production slags a bit, it's because the volatile chemistry between Urie and Ruehl is lacking between the leading man and Ward Horton's Ed, which is the play's major relationship…But Fierstein wrote a gem; funny, touching, and quite noble. And with Urie at the center and Ruehl thickening the drama, this ‘Torch Song’ often sings out triumphantly.” Full Review


"A classy and distinctly modern production...The best thing about revisiting the timeless theme of unconditional, committed love that's the underpinning of all three acts is Fierstein's rapid-fire dialogue that mixes the snappy one liners enriched with moving revelations. Fortunately, the ensemble is up to landing the zingers and inhabiting their roles convincingly...Falls short of the socially relevant depth of Kushner's epic 'Angels in America.' But it's smartly staged and trimmed." Full Review

AM New York

"When a historically significant play about gay life and social issues is revived, the inevitable question arrives of whether the play has the durability to sustain new productions or if it is likely to remain an artifact of its time. With its clunky plot developments and uneven structure and pacing, 'Torch Song' probably falls into the latter category, but it was well worth a second look. Kaufman’s production contains some genuinely beautiful moments and excellent performances all around." Full Review


"Bedroom politics dominate the first two acts, but the high stakes of the play come into focus during the emotional roller coaster of the third...Few actors can switch between comedy and drama and make it seem as natural as Urie does...Kaufman satisfactorily stages the plays and their clashing styles without adding much else...Despite an unremarkable production, 'Torch Song' still captivates with the strength of Fierstein's writing, which feels as fresh as ever." Full Review

Absorbing, Entertaining, Funny, Great acting, Relevant

See it if You enjoy stories about families- mother son relationships, relationships in general, great acting by Ruehl and Urie

Don't see it if You are homophobic, anti- Semitic, narrow minded

Clever, Delightful, Great acting, Great staging, Must see

See it if You love gay theater - this is a seminal work in the LGBT canon.

Don't see it if You are offended by backroom sex scenes (pantomimed of course) or frank discsussions of sexualtiy.

Also Fierstein has taken his operatic 3 act masterpiece, trimmed it a bit t... Read more Read less

Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Masterful, Must see

See it if anyone with sympathy for gay issues

Don't see it if you have no ocmpassion for gay rights and coming out in the 1980's

Absorbing, Romantic, Great writing, Resonant

See it if You want to open your mind and enjoy a heartfelt, charming, thought provoking and hilarious play.

Don't see it if You hate Harvey Fierstein in any capacity because his humor is very on-brand and not for everyone.

Life-changing, Heart-warming, Hilarious, Must see, Great writing

See it if You've only ever seen the abbreviated movie version...the play (even streamlined) is even better. If you love Michael Urie & Mercedes Ruehl.

Don't see it if You're intollerant or don't want to laugh your ass off and end the evening in tears.

Delightful, Great acting, Funny, Thought-provoking, Romantic

See it if you like humans (not the play, just humans)

Don't see it if no reason

Clever, Delightful, Enchanting, Great acting, Hilarious

See it if You enjoy gay-themed shows. The acting, staging, and book are exquisite. Laugh out loud funny one moment, tear-jerking the next.

Don't see it if You don’t like gay themes.

Profound, Hilarious, Great acting

See it if You want to see Michael Urie and Mercedes Reuhl lock heads in the most compelling scene of the season in one of the finest revivals in NYC.

Don't see it if You don’t care for gay stories

Clever, Funny, Great acting, Intense, Must see

See it if Loved Torch Song Trilogy and grew up in the 70s. It has a fantastic cast!

Don't see it if Are homophobic

Delightful, Funny, Hilarious, Must see, Great acting

See it if Very funny, Michael Urie is sensational. Go see it before the limited run ends!

Don't see it if Ur homophobic

Absorbing, Masterful, Profound, Relevant, Resonant

See it if You love lgbt themes or Harvey Fierstein’s writing.

Don't see it if You don’t care for lgbt themes.

Entertaining, Great acting, Great staging, Hilarious, Resonant

See it if You love a classic gay play in a perfect production in every way. Especially if you love Michael Urie and Mercedes Reuhl.

Don't see it if You don’t like gay theatre, are an unfeeling person or don’t like perfection.

Enchanting, Great acting, Funny, Romantic, Riveting

See it if You like a healthy balance of great jokes and heartbreaking drama

Don't see it if You don’t like gay people

Absorbing, Entertaining, Delightful, Funny, Great acting

See it if You want a laugh or you want to see something emotional at the same time. Good acting and the stage was set up super cool.

Don't see it if Don't like emotional shows or aren't going for something realistic just funny

Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining, Funny, Great acting

See it if You want to laugh and be moved all at once

Don't see it if You feel too bad for gay issues

Riveting, Resonant, Must see, Great acting, Great staging

See it if you'd like an excellent, ageless revival and all-around strong performances

Don't see it if you don't like Harvey Fierstein or Michael Urie

Masterful, Dedicated performances, Heartfelt, Riveting, Inspiring

See it if you want to laugh, cry, and be a human being connected to a world that keeps on spinning beyond control, with humor and tragedy alike.

Don't see it if you can't bear the thought of a trimmer version of the Trilogy; are homophobic; dislike "heavy" dramas punctuated by humor; misanthropic.

Also An exquisite look at the life, loves, and losses of Arnold Beckoff as ... Read more Read less

Dated in history but as timely and relevant as ever, Great acting, Must see, Resonant, Masterful

See it if you want to see a near flawless script performed brilliantly. Urie and Ruehl are exquisite. I was invested from beginning to end.

Don't see it if you are not interested in LGBTQ issues or stories

Also I was blown away by this fantastic production. I wasn't too familiar w... Read more Read less

Exquisite, Great acting, Masterful, Must see, Relevant

See it if You want to see a superb production of a powerful play that is relevant to this day. Incredible acting and staging. A must see!

Don't see it if Gay themes and long plays really turn you off.

Great acting, Great writing, Absorbing, Entertaining, Superior acting, writing. i laughed, i cried, must see

See it if like great solid show, great cast, laughs and a touching love story. So great!

Don't see it if You don't like a story about a gay family

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Resonant

See it if you want to see the product of great acting, writing, and directing all in one show.

Don't see it if you prefer comedic plays. Are uncomfortable with the portrayal of the problems faced by gay people in society.

Delightful, Great acting, Profound, Intelligent, Hilarious

See it if are young and have not seen this classic tale. Also see it is you are homophobic. It may change you.

Don't see it if ...just see it. You should. It will make you feel good.

Absorbing, Great acting

See it if You enjoy tour de force performances - Michael Urie is that great!

Don't see it if You are uncomfortable with direct and frank theatre.

Absorbing, Entertaining, Masterful

See it if You enjoy an in depth but very entertaining story. Highly recommend

Don't see it if You’re not comfortable with homosexual content

Absorbing, Dated, Epic, Great acting, Exquisite

See it if You loved the original. You want to see a masterclass in acting. You hope to catch it before it will go to Broadway.

Don't see it if You are hoping for something relevant to 2017. This is a brilliant classic but feels dated in a way that is charmingly pre-AIDS crisis

Cast & Creatives (13)