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Torch Song

Members say: Great acting, Funny, Absorbing, Entertaining, Great writing
86
Critics
76
35 reviews
Members
88
321 reviews
 

Second Stage Theater revives Harvey Fierstein's Tony Award-winning play about the life of a Jewish drag queen in 1979 New York City. Starring Michael Urie ('Ugly Betty') and Oscar winner Mercedes Ruehl.

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Arnold Beckoff is on a quest for love, purpose, and family. He’s fierce in drag and fearless in crisis, and he won’t stop until he achieves the life he desires. Now, Arnold is back…and he’s here to sing you a torch song. The Tony Award-winning play returns to Broadway for a new generation.

 


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Reviews (356)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
76
Avg Score

85
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

70
Theatermania

"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

55
Variety

“An affectionate if ill-considered revival…As imperfectly directed here by Moises Kaufman, Urie has made little attempt to make the role of Arnold his own…The trimmed-down show has kept its basic storyline but lost some of its grace notes…Arnold’s story is as sweet as ever…Does this history piece hold up? Yes, in the sense that the show is kind to its characters and true to its dated sensibilities. No, in the sense that the characters are unbelievably sweet and its sensibilities are dated.” Full Review

75
BroadwayWorld

“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

80
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

85
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

70
DC Theatre Scene

"There’s a sheen of artificiality to much of 'Torch Song' – a patina of calculation even in some of the heartfelt confrontations — that wasn’t so noticeable before...Performances are good enough, with one exception, largely to minimize any damage caused by the moments of vintage shtick...Given such lapses into dialogue of the bada-bada-bing variety, one is grateful for the presence of Michael Urie." Full Review

85
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

55
The Hollywood Reporter

"In Second Stage's choppy revival, director Moises Kaufman and star Michael Urie battle against that past association by inflating the lead role into an emphatic caricature...Without Fierstein's own unique brand of big-hearted, sloppy sentimentality inhabiting the central character, 'Torch Song' is a more pallid ballad, bittersweet and frequently funny but lacking the vitality to fully sustain its two-hour-40-minute run time." Full Review

75
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

70
The Wall Street Journal

"The only thing wrong with Second Stage’s revival, which has been very effectively directed by Moisés Kaufman, is Mr. Urie, a fine actor who is miscast as Mr. Fierstein...Mr. Urie is a whiny, slimmed-down one-note version of Arnold, thus putting him at a hopeless disadvantage when he goes up against Ruehl...It’s full of bright nuggets of truth that get lost among the punch lines. Does it still come off? Absolutely, and not just as a period piece, either." Full Review

75
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

90
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

60
Deadline

"New but not exactly fresh. It builds humorously if haltingly, through performances that push too hard...Uneven direction...The physical humor never quite works. But the hollerfest is pungent, and it’s amazing, too...Urie skates across Arnold’s words...Ruehl is fiery and on top of her game...One element he’s given surprisingly short shrift in this revision is that wrenching music...That’s what’s just off-the-mark here. What’s missing isn’t the trilogy, it’s a torch." Full Review

65
New York Daily News

"This pioneering but patchy comedy-drama of gay life and love still draws laughs and tears...The new production shows off the play’s strengths. That includes great one-liners, graceful touches and daring...But it can’t mask weaknesses of this deeply sentimental work...Urie isn't a perfect fit either...The play is an open-hearted howl for acceptance and authenticity — no apologies. The characterization...is self-sabotaging. It muffles this 'Torch Song.'" Full Review

75
CurtainUp

"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

91
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

55
Theatre Reviews Limited

“The action of the truncated trilogy is uneven...The dialogue seems worn and overwrought...Under Mr. Kaufman’s careful direction, the members of cast deliver believable performances despite the stereotypical traits of each character...There are times when the characters border on becoming cartoons...The conversations reek of situation comedy. This is unfortunate...It is difficult to discern whether this misfortune is the result of Kaufman’s direction or Fierstein’s writing.” Full Review

90
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

45
The Wrap

“It’s 45 minutes shorter than the original…That’s the good news. Late in this comedy, the lead character references those soapy Susan Hayward movies of the late 1940s and ’50s, and it must have been the thought of all those black-and-white glam tears that inspired director Moises Kaufman’s weepy staging...Making Arnold a first-class sufferer doesn’t ennoble him; it merely makes him pathetic…Ruehl’s delivery is marvelous...Urie knows how to land a line, but often prefers to detonate it.” Full Review

65
Talkin' Broadway

“An entertaining but only occasionally stirring production...The cascade of one-liners that pour off the stage comes at the sacrifice of character development. It is not until Act II and the appearance of Arnold's mother that the play comes into its own…The laugh lines are written into the script, of course, but they are outsized here, and the overall production is the worse for its failure to take more risks by downplaying the jokes and making the characters more believable from the outset.” Full Review

80
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

85
NY1

"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

85
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

95
NJ.com

"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

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
88
Avg Score

82
Funny, Absorbing, Clever, Resonant, Great writing

See it if You’re interested in pre-AIDS gay theater. You want to see a classic play with excellent writing that really shows a specific time.

Don't see it if You have a problem with blunt discussion of sexuality and gay male sexuality.

89
Funny, Ambitious, Great acting, Relevant, Great staging

See it if you'd enjoy a revival of a theater work that still deeply resonates without feeling dated (unlike The Heidi Chronicles, for example.)

Don't see it if I can't think of a reason.

95
Absorbing, Masterful, Entertaining

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

78
Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Dated, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if You want to see an enjoyable production of a fascinating play from the gay canon that is funny, moving, and beautifully staged.

Don't see it if Miscasting will ruin your evening. Urie gives it his all but never feels totally right. The rest of the cast is variable with 2 standouts.

85
Edgy, Great acting, Great writing, Hilarious, Entertaining

See it if You need a good laugh and have a great heart to understand the complexities of relationships. Love between children and parents go deep.

Don't see it if You do not like plays regarding homosexuality.

82
Funny, Great acting, Quirky

See it if you'd enjoy touching, sad, funny, terrific performances of a slightly dated piece that's just a little too long.

Don't see it if you object to LGBTQ themes.

85
Funny, Dated, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if a must see if you haven't seen orginal show. Enjoyed it very much. Mercedes Ruehl made the show. Staging clever.

Don't see it if You are homophobic

Also Because show is dated I could feel the emotional tug that the cast tri... Read more Read less

95
Absorbing, Epic, Exquisite, Great acting, Dated

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

81
Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if You want a tour de force performance from Michael Urie, in a role that should be owned by Harvey Fierstein. The whole cast was spectacular.

Don't see it if You want your revivals exactly the same. There were many tweaks and massive cuts. Don’t see it if you don’t like the gays. :) Lots of gays.

94
Funny, Absorbing, Clever, Intense, Relevant

See it if you want something funny yet heartbreaking and honest about the complications of being queer and the reality of the closet.

Don't see it if you're uncomfortable with frank discussions of queerness, including the violence inflicted on queer folks.

99
Great acting, Masterful, Must see, Resonant, Dated in history but as timely and relevant as ever

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

91
Funny, Absorbing, Intelligent

See it if You love important ideas leavened with a heavy dose of humor.

Don't see it if You just can't imagine any Arnold but Harvey Feirstein.

93
Absorbing, Great acting, Must see, Resonant, Great staging

See it if you want to see a tour-de-force performance by Michael Urie. If you want to see a classic play that still resonates and moves the audience.

Don't see it if you are homophobic, or if you are expecting light entertainment. It is weighty at times, but also clever and sometimes witty.

88
Intelligent, Masterful, Must see, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you enjoy a truthful narrative of emotional Gay experience beyond AIDS on stage.

Don't see it if you prefer a stereotypical gay play

96
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.

88
Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Dated, Great staging

See it if You like shows with gay themes, you like Urie and want to see him in a pretty stellar performance.

Don't see it if You’re looking for a short play or a light play—you’d get that if you stayed just for act 1, but act 2 is better.

90
Funny, Absorbing, Delightful, Great acting, Great writing

See it if You adore Michael Urie (and who doesn't?), and enjoy heart-warming relationship stories.

Don't see it if You don't like stories about same-sex relationships.

95
Funny, Delightful, Great acting, Hilarious, Entertaining

See it if you want to enjoy an evening of relationships, drama, comedy, excellent actors presenting a great play about people who love each other.

Don't see it if you don't like plays about homosexuality. No other reason I can think of.

89
Funny, Great acting, Resonant, Great writing, Great staging

See it if Great revival by terrific ensemble especially Michael Urie and Mercedes Ruehl revealing powerful emotions behind the wisecracking

Don't see it if You have issues with family drama especially with a gay overtone

90
Funny, Delightful, Relevant, Entertaining

See it if you want to see a very funny and yet poignant play about coming out as gay in the 1980's.

Don't see it if you don't like stories involving gays.

Also Having never seen this play when it first was out, I was so pleasantly... Read more Read less

90
Absorbing, Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if you want to see a well-written, sweet and funny play that treats every character with empathy. Great performances and fine direction.

Don't see it if you don't like plays about gay men, marriage, mothers and sons, all wrapped into one brilliant and moving experience.

87
Great acting, Entertaining, Great staging

See it if you want to see Michael Urie & Mercedes Ruehl give masterful performances. An insightful play about romance & gay life that still resonates.

Don't see it if you're sensitive to any gay subject matter, though the play is tasteful while being truthful.

100
Funny, Delightful, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Romantic

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

Don't see it if no reason

83
Trip down memory lane, hilarious, humane

See it if You want to be very entertained by witty writing and relatable subject matter regardless of sexual orientation. Third act w Ruehl best.

Don't see it if You think homosexuals are a different species and don't share the universal emotional travails of the majority, ohave no sense of humor.

Also Although I feel that Urie has great acting chops, it often felt as if ... Read more Read less

85
Great acting, Intelligent, Resonant, Great writing, Dated

See it if Great performances. A look at a very difficult time for gay people, that is thwnkfully, over.

Don't see it if I found it hard to look at how difficult gay people’s lives were then. It was painful to watch how casually cruel people were.