February 18, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel returned to TV and laptop screens around the world for the premiere of its fourth season. The Emmy-winning show is renowned for its ability to reference the aesthetic and social idiosyncrasies of the late 1950s, which, understandably, includes a host of theatrical references. The show is so in love with the stage that much of the third season centers around a dreamy Broadway production, and Season 4 promises to be filled with even more theatrical delights.
To celebrate, we’ve done an exhaustive hunt for (almost) every theatrical reference from the first three seasons of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. You’ll find our Season 3 coverage here, with Season 4 to follow in future installments. (You can read Season 1 here.) How many references did you spot on first viewing?
To note: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel films mostly in New York and features many theatrical performers in supporting roles. Due to the large number of actors involved, they have been omitted as references; for this piece, a reference is defined as an explicit call to theater or something produced by theater, such as a song on the soundtrack from a recording of musical theater actors. If a performer does not play a character with a theatrical vocation, he is not distinguished in this list.
Season 3 kicks off with a big USO show before Midge goes on tour as the opening act for Shy Baldwin. Broadway and the USO have been linked since before World War II, with performers of all kinds presenting entertainment for the troops.
“Manhattan”- Garrick’s gaieties
“Manhattan,” one of Rodgers and Hart’s most popular songs, plays as Midge says goodbye to her childhood home.
“Luck Be A Lady” – guys and dolls
Frank Sinatra’s rendition of the classic Frank Loesser tune resonates as the tour arrives in glittering Las Vegas.
“They say it’s wonderful” – Annie take your gun
Shy Baldwin performs this tender love song in Las Vegas, and then she opens the next episode after being touted as one of her biggest hits.
“Beautiful day today” – call me lady
Midge convinces Susie to have a relaxing girls’ night out with her, complete with face masks on one of their last nights in Vegas.
“The Man I Was” – Blowjob Dream
Abe and Rose left town, with mixed results. That Rodgers and Hammerstein song Blowjob Dream plays as Rose convinces Abe to run away with her in a cab, after reaching his breaking point with their WASP neighbors.
“Almost like being in love” – Brigadoon
Shy Baldwin performs this shrill song from Brigadoon when the tour reaches Miami.
“A pretty girl is like a melody” – The follies of Ziegfeld
This Ziegfeld Follies and Irving Berlin staple plays as the women parade down the Miami hotel’s grand staircase, showing off their most glamorous fashions.
Midge meets Lenny Bruce in Miami, and he brings her to his recording session for a local TV show, Miami after dark. On the program, he jokingly stages a mock fight with Tennessee Williams over Lenny’s dislike of his play rose tattoo.
“Until There’s You” – The music man
Midge and Lenny share a tender moment as they slow dance to Peggy Lee’s cover of ‘Till There Was You’ from The music man at a romantic nightclub in Miami.
Willy Loman Death of a seller
At dawn, Midge and Lenny walk the boardwalk outside the hotel where Lenny is staying; when he tells her that he now lives in a hotel, instead of having an apartment for his extended stay in Miami, Midge exclaims “you live in a hotel? Who are you, Willy Loman?” in reference to the titular seller of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.
“Hello” – Sing in the rain
The next morning, Midge wakes up in a desk chair by the pool, where synchronized swimmers practice “Good morning” from Sing in the rain.
Back in New York, Susie works ear to ear with her new second client; Miss Sophie Lennon, played by Jane Lynch. Sophie is a cross between Phyllis Diller and the vaudeville comedians of yore, and it’s through her that The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel steps straight into the theatrical arena, as Susie discovers how to produce a revival of the play Miss Julie for Sophie to play the lead role. Only one problem; August Strindberg’s naturalistic play far exceeds Sophie’s acting abilities.
“Please Don’t Monkey With Broadway” – 1940 Broadway Melody
This oft-forgotten Cole Porter tune plays as two knockabouts, Frank and Nicky, help Susie navigate her way into a theater to stage in. Miss Julie. The problem? Evicting current tenant, Julie Andrews, from the Barrymore Theater in an unspecified production. As Nicky says, “These aren’t civilized people, this is Broadway!”
Agnes de Mille
In the same tough scene, Frank remarks that he hasn’t been to an opening night since “de Mille bought us those tickets to Oklahoma!!”. The two had apparently helped the legendary choreographer carry out her grudges, which is how they got into the theatrical end of mob affairs.
Flower Drum Song and goodbye birdie
During rehearsals of Miss Juliethe companies of Flower Drum Song and goodbye birdie complaining when Sophie and her leading man are so loud during backstage sex that it interrupts their performances; it must have been a passion, like Flower Drum Song was playing at the St. James, four blocks away!
Back in Miami, Abe meets an old friend, Asher (played by Jason Alexander), who has moved to Florida. Both were unionized on the Lower East Side until Asher moved downtown to become one of the most successful playwrights of his time, before being blacklisted after being identified as a communist . “I gave the theater everything I had, and it fired me. I was one of Broadway’s most successful playwrights. Every show I performed made money. I won the Pulitzer Prize. The critics called me the American Chekhov. And then some asshole calls me a communist, and poof, it’s over… twenty years to build a life, two months to see it turn… The theater broke me the heart.
Back in New York, Moishe and Shirley, Midges’ former in-laws, go to see goodbye birdie and present the show’s program to him during a family breakfast; Moishe has a crush on Chita Rivera, and Shirley keeps singing the songs out of tune.
“You’d be so nice to come home” – something to shout
This Cole Porter song, now considered a jazz standard, plays as Rose and Abe experiment with the subway.
“So Long, Farewell” – The sound of music
Abe, Midge’s father, quits his job teaching math at Columbia; the classic farewell song The sound of music echoes through the halls as he says goodbye to his students.
“Our love is here to say” – Goldwyn’s follies
Gershwin’s bouncing classic plays as Midge returns to her childhood home with her parents, who have both decided to give up trying to live in the suburbs.
A local theater group is producing one of Asher’s works, titled A column of salt, for the first time since its blacklist. Abe decides to review the show in an attempt to bring attention back to his friend’s good reputation, and when Asher reads the review, he is furious that Abe won’t let him languish in obscurity. Abe’s response? “Broadway today is run by bean counters and cowards. It should be more; people deserve more.”
Destry rides again
Abe walks past the 1959 musical adaptation of the western Destry rides again out of the blue, legendary producer David Merrick pulls up in a car to throw tomatoes at him. Merrick had read his review of salt column, and despised him so much that he hunted him down. Posters for Do Rei Mi, an evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine Mayand The unsinkable Molly Brown can also be seen in the background. “Don’t you understand? My play, it touched them. My words incited theater people, people who make a living sitting down, it incited them to stand up and commit an act of physical violence!”
The voice of the village
At the very end of the third season, it is revealed that Abe got a job as a theater critic for The voice of the village, one of the most prominent downtown newspapers at the time. This budding passion is likely to be a major plot point in Season 4, so keep your eyes peeled for plenty more theatrical references in the new season, now available on Amazon Prime.