[title of show] References – The More You Know!
A love letter to musical theatre, [title of show] is chock-full of theatre references – that’s part of what makes it so laugh-out-loud funny. You definitely don’t have to know these or read this to enjoy the show, you’ll have a totally great time filled with laughs either way! But, if you want to brush up on your theatre history and catch even the most obscure jokes, check out this list of references before the show. How many do you already know?
Want to quiz yourself first? Click HERE!
(like glossary, from the show’s website)
Alice Ripley – Unbelievable Broadway actress and belter. As in, “Alice Ripley was f’in fierce in Side Show.”
Ass-broke – Without funds. Used like, “If I don’t get that check from Paper Mill, I’m gonna be ass-broke, y’all.”
Bagels and Yox – 1951 Jewish review that ran on Broadway around the same time as Borscht Capades.
Betty Comden and Adolph Green – Book writers and lyricist of many musicals. As in, “Adolph, quit fartin’ around and help Betty write those Will Rogers Follies lyrics.”
Bitches – Friends, pals, loved ones. As in, “I appreciate you bitches being so supportive at my grandma’s funeral.”
Brazilian wax – Depilatory treatment that hurts like a mother f’in bitch.
Bus and truck – The tour of a show that usually plays short gigs in many cities. Heidi may say, “Y’all, should I audition for that bus and truck of Seussical?”
Commodore 64 – Computer released in August of 1982. As in, “Hunter, I just got Donkey Kong for my C64!”
Dan Pessano – “Daddy Warbucks” to Heidi’s “Annie” in 1982. Heidi may say, “Y’all, should I audition for that production of Hello, Dolly! that Dan Pessano is directing?”
Dixon Ticonderoga – A soft, number 2 pencil. Used like, “Jeff prefers to write songs with a Dixon Ticonderoga, not an f’in Faber-Castell.”
Doc Hollywood – 1991 film featuring Michael J. Fox, currently running every hour on the hour on TBS.
Empty Nest – (See Dinah Manoff).
Henry, Sweet Henry – The best damned Don Ameche musical ever.
John Cameron Mitchell – Talented creator of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Used like, “Susan thinks by saying John Cameron Mitchell’s name in the show it increases her chances of meeting him.”
Ken Billington – Lighting designer of A Doll’s Life, Annie Warbucks and [title of show].
Kwamina – Interracial musical from 1961 with music and lyrics by Richard Adler. Used like, “You can borrow my Kwamina record, but I’ll kill you if you scratch it.”
Lynda Carter – The most beautiful actress in the world. For example, “If Jeff wasn’t gay, he’d have a serious boner for Lynda Carter.”
Mamie Duncan-Gibbs – Talented theatre actress and star of Chicago. One of Mamie’s friends may say, “Mamie Duncan-Gibbs, that’s my girl!”
Mary Stout – Lovable Broadway actress. As in “Mary Stout was excellent as “Enid” in A Change in the Heir.”
Me doots – A variant pronunciation of “my doubts.” As in, “I hope this [tos]sary helps explain [title of show], but I have me doots.”
Mexcellent – When something is both Mexican and excellent. Used like, “My travel agent Eileen said Cancun was Mexcellent this time of year.”
Pink Sawdust – A deodorizing powder developed to absorb and neutrilize vomit odors.
Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 – PC game for lonesome nerds. Jeff may say, “My Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 upgrade better have arrived in the mail today or I’m going to be sad.”
Roma Torre – NY One anchor and notable theatre critic. Our press agent may say, “I hope Roma Torre doesn’t rip [title of show] a new a’hole.”
Seafood Mare – Chelsea eatery featuring outdoor dining. A Chelsea boy may say, “I was sitting outside at Seafood Mare when–oh, my god, there’s Tim Gunn.”
(see Tim Gunn)
S’luck – An appropriate response to “Wish us luck!”
Smell-em-ups – Any scented room sanitizer.
Smell-O-Vision – A 60’s invention that allows audience members to smell what they’re watching. As in, “When Susan eats Chinese food, it’s fortunate for the audience that the show isn’t in Smell-O-Vision.”
The Gray Lady – The New York Times. As in, “The Gray Lady could take the Post in a cage match any day.”
The O’Neill Center – Connecticut-based summer camp for grown-up theatre nerds. Hunter may say, “I made out hard with that dude at The O’Neill Center.”
The Rink – Kander and Ebb musical from 1984 that starred Chita and Liza. Where’s a time machine when you need it?
Tim Gunn – Design mentor of TV’s “Project Runway.” Used like, “I saw Tim Gunn walk by Seafood Mare.”
Tippy Turtle – Iconic reptile used as a litmus test for aspiring artists. For example, “My “Tippy Turtle” drawing wasn’t so good, but my “Pete the Pirate” totally rocked.”
Word – Street vernacular. Short for “word to your mother.” As in, “Word.”
Don’t worry, there are even more…
Henry, Sweet, Henry: Based on the 1964 novel The World of Henry Orient by Nora Johnson and the subsequent film of the same name, the plot focuses on Valerie and Marian, two wealthy, love-struck teenagers who stalk an avant-garde composer and aging philanderer. It closed in 1967 after just 80 performances on Broadway
Wonderful Town: A 1953 musical that tells the story of two sisters who aspire to be a writer and actress respectively, seeking success from their basement apartment in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The music was written by Leonard Bernstien, but never found success anywhere near his West Side Story or Candide.
“The Festival” : A nod to the very repetitive line from Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. “The King is throwing a festival.”
Shogun, the Musical: Based on James Clavell’s 1976 novel, Shogun: The Musical took eight years to get off the ground. When the production finally opened at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, it closely resembled Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera in size and scope, with a cast of thirty-eight characters, more than three hundred costumes, a libretto nearly entirely sung, and a running time of 3½ hours. After a much needed revamp, it finally went into previews before opening on November 20, 1990. During a press preview, the leading man was struck by a set piece in the second act, causing the show to end abruptly and certainly not helping reviews. Luckily, the actor was alright and able to return to the show shortly thereafter. Unluckily, this mammoth of a show closed after only 72 performances.
Ruthless: The Musical: Ruthless! The Musical is an all-female musical that spoofs Broadway musicals, like Gypsy and Mame, and movies such as The Bad Seed and All About Eve. This musical never made it to Broadway, but during its 1992 off-Broadway run, the central role of Tina was understudied by Natalie Portman and Britney Spears.
Dinah Manoff: An American stage, film, and television actress and television director. She is best known for her role as Marty Maraschino in the movie-musical adaptation of Grease.
Leader of the Pack: A 1984 American jukebox musical based on the life and music of singer/songwriter Ellie Greenwich or wrote or co-wrote such hits as “Be My Baby”, “Then He Kissed Me”, “Do Wah Diddy Diddy”, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”, “Leader of the Pack”, and “River Deep – Mountain High.”
Tommy: The Who’s Tommy is a rock musical based on the 1969 rock opera by the same name. The show ran on Broadway from 1993–95.
Michael Crawford: A Broadway actor best known for originating the role of the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera.
Jim Dale: In the United States, Jim Dale is most recognized as a leading actor on Broadway in the 80’s where his career earned him five Tony Award Nominees, as well as for narrating all seven of the Harry Potter audiobooks in the American market
Barnums: Step aside The Greatest Showman, Barnum is the original Broadway musical about P.T. Barnum. The show ran for just a little over two years on Broadway from 1980–1982.
Mazeppa: A reference to the stripper Mazeppa from the musical Gyspy whose gimmick is famously how she can “bump it with a trumpet”
Starlight Express: What do you get when Andrew Lloyd Webber combines an animated TV series based on Thomas the Tank Engine, a novelty pop single, and an animated film based on Cinderella? Starlight Express. This show tells the story of a young but obsolete steam engine, Rusty, who races in a championship against modern engines in the hope of impressing a first-class carriage, Pearl. Oh, and it’s all famously done on roller skates… However, the weird premise of the show didn’t detract from its success. It holds the title as the ninth-longest running theatrical production on the West End and is also the most successful musical in Germany, where it has been performed in a purpose-built theater since 1988.
Chess: This musical combines the music writing talents of two ABBA members with the lyricist writing talen of Tim Rice to give you a musical about a politically driven, Cold War–era chess tournament between two grandmasters, one American and the other Soviet Russian, and their fight over a woman who manages one and falls in love with the other. It premiered on Broadway in 1988 and survived for only two months,
Jukebox Musical: A musical that takes the song from one artist and group and weaves a story around the songs. Famous examples include Mamma Mia, American Idiot, and All Shook Up!
I Love My Wife: A satire of the sexual revolution of the 1970s, the musical takes place on Christmas Eve in suburban Trenton, New Jersey, where two married couples who have been close friends since high school find themselves contemplating a ménage-à-quatre. Surprisingly, this show ran over 850 times over a span of two years in the late 70’s.
Romance/Romance: This show is composed of two acts linked only by the common theme of love and one song performed in both acts. The first, The Little Comedy, is based on a short story and explores the budding relationship between two people who have adopted personas other than their own in late 19th century Vienna. Summer Share, the second act based on Jules Renard’s 1898 play Le pain de ménage, is updated to the late 1980s and set in The Hamptons, where two married couples find themselves gradually progressing from harmless flirtation to the serious possibility of an illicit affair. Oddly enough, this show starred Barry William of Brady Bunch fame.
The Golden Apple: The Golden Apple is a musical adaptation of parts of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. The musical transferred to Broadway on April 20, 1954, to the Alvin Theater where it played for only 125 performances despite rave reviews.
Merrily We Roll Along: This 1981 musical was written by the great Stephen Sondheim but name recognition wasn’t enough to make it a hit. After only 16 Broadway performances and merciless reviews, this show closed prematurely.
Got Tu Go Disco: A woman who sells disco clothes in a store hates disco music, until her boyfriend convinces her to go to the local dance club, where she becomes its queen. After many delays the show ran for nine previews and eight regular performances, not even long enough for it to face the wrath of the “Disco Sucks” movement.
A Change in the Heir: Two branches of the same royal family bring up their children as the opposite sex in hopes of gaining the crown. Mistaken identity and romance result in this musical farce. Considered a big Broadway “flop” after surviving only 23 performances.
Censored Scenes from King Kong: Yes, this is a real show. And yes, it may win the shortest run on this list. This musical comedy imagines that scenes cut from the film “King Kong” actually contained information for secret agents, but only ran for a total of FIVE Broadway performances before closing. Fun fact: Carrie Fisher (of Star Wars Fame) played the lead.
OBIE Award: The Obie Awards or Off-Broadway Theater Awards are annual awards originally given by The Village Voice newspaper to theater artists and groups in New York City. In September 2014, the awards were jointly presented and administered with the American Theatre Wing. As the Tony Awards cover Broadway productions, the OBIE Awards cover off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway productions.
“Shields and Yarnel”: Shields and Yarnell were an American mime team, formed in 1972, consisting of Robert Shields and Lorene Yarnell.
The Naked Cowboy: Robert John Burck, better known as the Naked Cowboy, is an American street performer who is best known for singing regularly in New York City’s Times Square wearing only cowboy boots, a hat, and white briefs, with a guitar strategically placed to give the illusion of nudity. In 2010, he announced he would be running for president in the 2012 election as a member of the Tea Party Movement.
Shakespeare: The one and only William Shakespeare who’s work created in early Elizabethan England is still performed to this day all over the globe. He was the author of Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and many, many more.
Sondheim: Stephen Sondheim was an American composer and lyricist. Among the most important figures in 20th-century musical theater, Sondheim was praised for having “reinvented the American musical” with shows like Company, Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George, Sweeney Todd, and A Little Night Music. Sondheim sadly passed away right before Thanksgiving in 2021.
Sedaris: An American humorist, comedian, author, and radio contributor. Much of Sedaris’s humor is autobiographical and self-deprecating and often concerns his family life, his middle-class upbringing in the suburbs of Raleigh, North Carolina, his Greek heritage, being gay, his jobs, education, and much more. He is most well known for writing Me Talk Pretty One Day about his time living in France with his husband.
Lily Tomlin: An American actress, comedian, and writer who is best known for her roles in Laugh-In, the hit Netflix series Frankie & Grace, and as the voice-actor of Miss Frizzle in The Magic School Bus. She is a Tony award winning actor and a Broadway veteran. In 2014, she was given Kennedy Center Honors and in 2017 she received the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award.
Christopher Guest: An American-British screenwriter, composer, musician, director, actor, and comedian best known for his short mockumentary comedic films like Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman. He is married to Jamie Lee Curtis.
Winnie Mandela: A South African anti-apartheid activist and politician, and the second wife of Nelson Mandela.
Eugene O’Neill Theater Center: The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center is the country’s preeminent organization dedicated to the development of new works and new voices for the American theater. The O’Neill pioneered play development and stage readings as a tool for new plays and musicals, and is also home to the National Theater Institute
The Vineyard Theatre: The Vineyard Theatre is an Off-Broadway non-profit theater company in Manhattan. It is best known for its productions of the Tony award-winning musical Avenue Q, Paula Vogel’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play How I Learned to Drive, and of course, [title of show].
Avenue Q: A musical comedy best-known for featuring puppets and human actors. The show has tackles often “taboo” subjects such as racism, homosexuality, and internet pornography. This show was also developed at the Vineyard Theatre before it went on to Broadway. Fun fact: the same guy who wrote the music to this show also wrote the music for Frozen.
The Post, Time Out, Variety: All New York newspapers and publications that have a big sway in what “makes it or breaks it” on Broadway.
Bernadette Peters: An American actress, singer, and children’s book author. Over a career spanning more than six decades, she has starred in musical theatre, television and film, performed in solo concerts and released recordings. She is a critically acclaimed Broadway performer, including a Tony and Drama Desk award winner. She is the ultimate Broadway star.
[title of show] show: A video blog by the creators of [title of show]. It documents the musical’s progress to Broadway and can still be viewed on YouTube.
Coast of Utopia: The Coast of Utopia is a 2002 trilogy of plays: Voyage, Shipwreck, and Salvage, written by Tom Stoppard with focus on the philosophical debates in pre-revolution Russia between 1833 and 1866. Despite it’s nine-hour run time, It was the recipient of the 2007 Tony Award for Best Play.
Sutton Foster: The ultimate Broadway “it” girl. She is a two time Tony-award winner for Best Actress in a Musical and most well-known for her lead roles in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Anything Goes, Little Women, The Drowsy Chaperone, Young Frankenstein, Shrek the Musical, and Violet. She is currently starring as Marian Paroo in The Music Man on Broadway with Hugh Jackman
Aspects of Love: One of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s lesser-known works, Aspects of Love is focuses on the romantic entanglements of actress Rose Vibert, her admiring fan Alex Dillingham, his underage cousin Jenny, his uncle George, and George’s mistress, sculptor Giulietta Trapani, over a period of 17 years. The show ran for over 300 performances but when the musical closed, the entire $8 million investment was lost, which, according to the New York Times, made it “perhaps the greatest flop in Broadway history.”
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! NOW, if you haven’t yet, be sure to get your tickets to [title of show] today! The show runs from July 15 – August 7, 2022, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2:30 pm. Bring a group of friends! Extra points to whichever of you remembers the most of these references. 😉