New York | 2h 20m | Already closed

The Boy Who Danced On Air

From 25 critic and 59 member reviews
Members say: Ambitious, Great singing, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Intense

About the show

Abingdon Theatre Company presents this new musical, a modern-day love story set in rural Afghanistan. More…

Paiman and Feda have spent their young lives as performers in the world of bacha bazi, where wealthy men take in boys from poor families, train them to dance at parties, and often abuse them. The two boys’ chance meeting changes the course of their lives and sets them on a journey to find their independence in this musical fable about love, tradition, morality, and the strength of the human spirit.

2h 20m | Already closed | June Havoc Theatre (Midtown W)


"A challenging, courageous, and beautiful new musical...Rosser and Sohne employ a comfortingly familiar songwriting style to push thrillingly fresh ideas...Sohne's book efficiently places this human tragedy in the context of its society...Director Tony Speciale realizes Rosser and Sohne's vision with brilliance and thrift...A wholly original musical that is both emotionally and intellectually stirring. Anyone who cares about the future of the American musical should run out and see it now." Full Review

Stage Buddy

“This vibrant, brave work will surprise you in a way you won’t see coming, and you’ll leave feeling fulfilled as ever, with a fresh outlook on life and a reinvigorated passion for doing all that you can...With a play filled with so many different factors, and a host of dazzling visual and musical elements that toy with your emotions on every level, it’s this story of hope, determination and self-belief that really keeps you centered, focused, and enthralled.” Full Review

The Huffington Post

"Viewed through exotically shaped music and well-crafted lyrics, it’s exhilarating. Viewed through Sohne’s complicated book, it’s not only offbeat but also downbeat—but definitely not to its detriment...The singing—as well as the acting—is up to the standards set...Speciale creates a surreal atmosphere that lifts ‘The Boy Who Danced on Air’ into its own unique stratosphere. Along the way, he lifts the audience with him." Full Review

Time Out New York

"An unusual, profoundly affecting chamber musical...Creators Tim Rosser and Charlie Sohne amp up the drama in the second act, and push it further still in a coda. Their musical, optimally staged by Tony Speciale, taps into a universal source of pain and confusion: that phase of youthful innocence when, unable to fathom the adults who control us, we wishfully mistake them for gods." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"This creation certainly soars through the air, while also stumbling at moments in its sincere treatment...There is one beautiful song after another...It’s quite an amazing casting score that this production found all of these wonderfully voiced men, who fit the characters' descriptions so perfectly...The unneeded use of the politics and the Unknown Man add little to the heartbreaking story that already has been crafted with such care." Full Review

Broadway Blog

"A provocative, thoughtful, and moving story...It is handled with sensitivity and delicate understanding…The band fully realizes some of the most gorgeous and original tunes heard in ages...Speciale's entire cast is comprised of skillful actors who make each part distinctly their own...Rosser and Sohne sanitized the depiction of bacha bazi...Still, I commend them for exposing the subject and bravely tackling such a complicated matter with earnest humanity and heart." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"To their credit, Rosser and Sohne, along with director Tony Speciale and choreographer Nejla Yatkin, have embraced the setting of 'The Boy Who Dances On Air' but don't allow it to suffocate their story in sadness or revulsion...A surprising breath of fresh air...It's not without its flaws, but blessed with a talented and committed cast, savvy direction, passionate dancing and a fearlessness to break boundaries, it has the power to open your eyes and pierce your heart." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

"While the book gets a bit muddled, particularly in Act 2, I found myself moved by Paiman’s plight and interested in the moral complexity of the entire show. It’s refreshing to see a new musical grapple with multi-layered conflicts while exposing New York audiences to parts of the human experience we haven’t seen before. Another major highlight of the production is the gorgeous music...It also helps that the score is executed by such gifted singers." Full Review

Edge New York

"Highly ambitious...It bravely attempts to delve into subject matter that is taboo and mine it for nuance and ambiguity while making a bold statement about the USA's contradictory behavior around the world...Valiantly conceived by composer Tim Rosser and book writer/lyricist Charlie Sohne, and keenly and exquisitely directed by Tony Speciale, the production beguiles, asking difficult questions and never providing pat answers. The results are mostly impressive." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"In this deeply moving portrayal, exquisitely told through song, we are witness to intolerable crimes and brutality against these very young boys...This is not an easy production in which to be an audience and the fact that it is somewhat lightened by melodic music and good storytelling helps. But if you are squeamish in the face of bodily harm, beware!...Tony Speciale directs this cast with extraordinary understanding and tantalizing aplomb." Full Review


"While the ugly practice of bacha bazi seems like a disturbing conceit for a musical, director Tony Speciale blends the offensiveness with inspiration and theatricality, and the cast sings with compelling power...The well-crafted production and gifted performers bring an intriguing, though certainly unsettling tradition to the stage with the actors' layered sensitivity and the human strength of love and spirit. With some editing, this innovative musical has staying power." Full Review

Theater Life

"Directed by Tony Speciale with great sensitivity, the story is a heart-wrenching look a boy named Paiman, played beautifully by the ethereal Troy Iwata...If Shone’s book takes unnecessary tangents, the three men at the heart of the conflict, nonetheless, head an impressive cast, and the dancing as well as the singing is top-notch in Rosser and Sohne’s touching musical." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"An impressive feat of imagination, delving with remarkable sensitivity into a culture that might seem bizarre, even repugnant, to American audiences...Rosser and Sohne lay out the situation with clarity and without melodrama...The big issue in Speciale's production has to do with the casting of Paiman and Feda...The choice of older actors might be necessary, but it also adds a level of dishonesty to what is otherwise an admirably well-intentioned piece of work." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"The incredible cast are all wonderful in the roles they have been given...The entire cast have phenomenal vocals and strong acting abilities...Tony Speciale directs with sensitivity and some very clever tricks to showcase the age gap...The music is infectious and theatrical with threads of pop and Arabic ties blending nicely...As wonderful as this show is, and it has some amazing moments, musicals are now justifying things in society that may not have a right to be seen in such a bright light." Full Review

Woman Around Town

"Most of Rosser’s songs are meandering, tuneless...Lyrics tend to be less specific and evocative without some structure. Well=researched and insightful phrases pepper even less successful efforts...Sohne’s book, however, is deft, illuminating, strong, and in the end carries one past musical weakness. Characters are credible and heady....Tony Speciale’s direction and Nejla Yatkin’s integrated choreography are inspired." Full Review

Broadway & Me

"Uneven. The book is overworked. In addition to the two love stories, there's a distracting subplot...But Rosser's score nicely incorporates Afghan rhythms through the use of percussion and the lute-like rubab. Some of the songs are hauntingly beautiful...The Abingdon's artistic director Tony Speciale has created a lovely showcase for their work...Speciale has also assembled a cast of engaging actors with strong singing voices." Full Review

The Huffington Post

“It has a good production design, some strong performances and songs sporting some good melodies…The book is both overly complicated and not specific enough…The corruption story should be cut, eliminating a good half hour from the current two and a half hour show and focusing it more tightly…Raviv is by far the best here, adding immeasurably to the sensitivity and nuance of the show…Admirably ambitious. It may stumble a little, but that’s what happens when you leap forward.” Full Review

Theatre's Leiter Side

“[A] dull, melodically uninteresting…score played offstage by a five-piece band…Speciale's earnest, physically agile production never convinces us we're not on W. 36th Street but in rural Afghanistan. Partly, this is because the dialogue and accents…sound so American…'The Boy Who Danced on Air' is to be applauded for dramatizing…bacha bazi in a way that finds tragic beauty in its victims. But provocative subject matter, even when sensitively presented, doesn't necessarily make great theatre.” Full Review

New York Theater

"Features some terrific solo dancing and stirring song duets...Offers much stunning visual appeal. Having seen the Frontline documentary, however, I was left with many questions...How much of the real story is sacrificed to hew to the conventions of American musical theater? Sohne and Rosser do not omit the ugliness, although the musical presents it discreetly...The effect is to make 'The Boy' feel more like a homoerotic romantic musical than a sort of sober drama." Full Review

Front Row Center

“I admit to being riveted by the story while wishing that the production was a little better...Clearly, the story and the setting are unique and interesting and deserve to be told…Raviv brings Jahandar brilliantly to life on the stage in a nuanced and masterful performance. I just wish that they had spent a little more effort on the character of Paiman...What did work well however, was the music and lyrics..I think with some work, this could become an important piece of theater.” Full Review

Asbury Park Press

“Despite the violence and troubling subject matter, the show has moments that are quite beautiful…While not great theater, the story has potential—although a side plot involving a power plant built by Americans is distracting…Despite the setbacks, director Tony Speciale manages to keep your attention…Raviv turns in a strong and steady performance…Rosser and Sohne took a risk, and they deserve credit for that—even if their hard work does not add up to a hit.” Full Review

The New York Times

"The ick factor here is dangerously high, a problem that the production labors hard to mitigate through aesthetics...It would be enough of an achievement to make this story palatable...But Mr. Rosser and Mr. Sohne were even more ambitious: They have two more stories to tell...Still, the music rewards the ear...What’s more, it is beautifully sung...To make a successful musical on this subject would require exquisite discretion, but discretion is exactly what the subject forbids." Full Review


"This might have worked had Sohne’s book had a little more poetry in it, a bit more subtlety. But the dialogue and the emotions therein feel as though rendered with a trowel versus a paint brush...Sohne and Rossner’s songs have an authentic, idiomatic sound to them, and yet are rendered in a cozily familiar musical theater style...Iwata seems to be a young performer worth watching...The rest of the cast feels oddly stilted...Wish Sohne and Rossner could take another crack at the show." Full Review


“Initially intriguing but ultimately unsatisfying…Sohne’s earnest book has an abundance of stiff dialogue, repetitiveness, and a drawn-out, extraneous subplot…The show’s arresting aspects clash with the uneven book and score, and at two hours and 20 minutes, 'The Boy Who Danced on Air' is periodically dull...'The Boy Who Danced on Air' is billed as a fable, and those aesthetic qualities are imaginatively rendered. As an integrated musical, it stumbles in its form, and in presenting reality.” Full Review

Off Off Online

"Spirited and nuanced, but lacks the caution, finesse, and heterogeneity needed to avoid joining the ranks of American musicals that have tried to absorb non-Western cultures, only to abuse and debase them...The actors perform with a liveliness befitting a much larger stage, even though each has been directed as though in his own world...No Afghans were harmed in the making of this play (at least not physically), but it doesn’t appear that many were consulted, either." Full Review

Clever, Enchanting, Delightful, Masterful, Profound

See it if Love music

Don't see it if You are not much into music

Must see, Exquisite, Absorbing, Great singing

See it if You want to see a beautiful yet tragic production with some fantastic singing.

Don't see it if You’re sensitive to physical abuse or the idea of slavery.

Also Absolutely brilliant. This show is stunning. I can’t remember the last... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Clever, Great staging, Intelligent

See it if Great songs, great singing by all 5 male actors, fascinating (but..see below) tale. 2 great dancers.] Play needs a longer run.

Don't see it if disturbing topic of life in Afghanistan

Absorbing, Great acting, Great singing, Great staging, Thought-provoking

See it if You love great performances, great acting, direction and choreography and the intimacy and power of off-broadway theater.

Don't see it if You can't get past the subject matter.

Absorbing, Great writing, Intense, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if You like musicals that make a social and political point as well as psychologically complex

Don't see it if You have a problem with mediocre dance (partially because of the small stage) You do not like political themes or seeing them simplified.

Also The set director did the best he/she could with the set given the smal... Read more Read less

Exquisite, Great acting, Intense, Riveting, Must see

See it if You like a good story. If you're open minded to other cultures' source of pain beautifully acted. If you want to learn and to think and feel

Don't see it if You're closed minded about traditions/ other cultures view about " men have needs". You're squeamish about men and young boys together.

Ambitious, Exquisite, Great singing, Great acting, Thought-provoking

See it if it gets the new life it deserves. It's a moving portrayal of a real issue most haven't even heard of. The story, score & cast are 1st rate.

Don't see it if you need happy-go-lucky theatre. This is about perseverance through unthinkable obstacles & finding the courage to grab at joy when you can.

Heart-wrenching, Exquisite singing, Excellent acting, Deeply moving, Thought-provoking

See it if you want to experience some of the most beautiful & pristine singing on stage today. Story is controversial: so what. RUN & SEE THIS SHOW!

Don't see it if same-sex PDA's make you squeamish. It's SO much more than what we bargain for. Deserves to be in slightly larger theater w/MUCH longer run.

Eye opening, Culturally informative, Thought-provoking, Absorbing

See it if You are open to learning about aspects of other cultures. An interesting insight into the Afghani culture and a unique love story.

Don't see it if You prefer more traditional content in a musical or you are uncomfortable with the depiction of violence.

Absorbing, Great acting, Entertaining, Enchanting, Great singing

See it if Beautiful music and touching lov song.

Don't see it if If you have difficulty with gay topic.

Intense, Disturbing, Great singing, Moving, Riveting

See it if exploring a controversial part of the Afghan culture, exquisite singing, dance, acting & tragic but uplifting stories excite you.

Don't see it if you are uncomfortable with pedophilia or same sex relationships on stage, or if you want a traditional musical or something light.

Absorbing, Ambitious, Great singing, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if you like an intimate political musical with great tunes, an absorbing plot, and high stakes. A both challenging and emotional little show/

Don't see it if you don't like political musicals, are uncomfortable with gay abuse, rape, or a show set in Afghanistan.

Absorbing, Great writing, Resonant, Ambitious, Edgy

See it if you have the stomach for a really good musical that is about a very rancid subject: pedophilia in Afghanistan. So well done and worth it.

Don't see it if you only like "My Fair Lady" musicals that don't try to open our minds to strong subject material.

Ambitious, Great singing, Absorbing, Intense, Resonant

See it if you like dark themes, you like new musicals, you like small casts, you like great singing

Don't see it if dark topics make you feel uncomfortable, you want a large cast, you want a standard storyline

Also Interesting new musical looking at tradition and morality, love and dr... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Great singing, Edgy, Intelligent, Beautiful music

See it if you are ok with difficult subject matters staged to beautiful music. great voices. wonderful actors.

Don't see it if overly complex story lines. politics could have been left out. trying to be too clever. very difficult topic

Intense, Surprising, disturbing, moving

See it if you want to be shaken, moved, tense, relieved, enchanted, frightened, by new material that is inescapably emotionally complex.

Don't see it if a difficult play about conflicting moral values, traditions and cultures isn't your taste. Not for the those who want simple happy endings

Also This play/musical is disturbing. It tells a story based on real life e... Read more Read less

Raunchy, Intense, Edgy, Riveting, Absorbing

See it if You like modern musicals.

Don't see it if You are uncomfortable with pedophilia that's a part of a culture.

Great staging, Great singing, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking

See it if You are interested in culture like musicals​ and are open minded

Don't see it if You are offended by homosexual interaction

Ambitious, Slow, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Great singing

See it if Ambitious chamber musical about culturally condoned (?) pedophilia in the Arab world. Very well sung & acted despite uncomfortable depiction

Don't see it if Overly plotted (the subplot is extraneous) & many songs hinder pacing The gay relationship between the bacha bazi dancers is underwritten

So much new, so much old, so much borrowed

See it if you want to learn about this custom. you want a glimpse into Afghan disillusionment in US.

Don't see it if You are uncomfortable with pedophilia, Muslims as victim, hero, and villain. With USA strictly villainous.

Also This was an amazing performance, in a black box theater transformed in... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Absorbing, Great singing, Intelligent, Riveting

See it if you enjoy a musical that's a bit different and doesn't always end the way you want it to. Troy Iwata is someone to watch.

Don't see it if you have qualms about the realities of life and how cruel it can sometimes be. And yes, it is about same sex relationships.

Engaging, Good music, Heart felt

See it if young gay love

Don't see it if deals with pedophilia

Sincere, Ambitious, Great staging, Great cast, Thought-provoking

See it if you want to see an excellent, charismatic, fully-committed cast at work; if you're intrigued by premise (& prospect of making it a musical)

Don't see it if premise squicks you out; if you can't w/ utterly conventional approaches to tricky material (Newsies x MissSaigon, but not as accomplished)

Ambitious, Cliched, Great singing, Edgy

See it if You want to champion new original musicals.

Don't see it if You are uncomfortable with pedophilia on stage.

Different. good music. lovely voices. good performances.

See it if You like all kinds of theatre..

Don't see it if You are not open to all kinds of theatre.

Cast & Creatives (15)