Jottings from a pop culture junkie

NEW YORK, NY; March 24, 2022—Shaina Taub’s passion and earnestness are brilliantly exhilarating and exhausting in the musical Suffs at the Public Theater, continuously from the opening number straight through the following 2-3/4 hours. A sung-through musical about the suffrage movement and passage of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, Taub is responsible for book, music, and lyrics, and stars as the voting rights activist Alice Paul. (The sold out run is in previews, with a formal opening April 6th.)

Yes, there are obvious references to our contemporary plights re voting, gender and racial equality, discrimination, and war. They are critical to Taub’s vision of the role of theater — and music generally, as those who’ve seen Taub as a cabaret artist at Joe’s Pub, as actor-singer/accordionist/composer for the Public’s Public Works Twelfth Night, or elsewhere will know.

Music is her métier and in Suffs she delivers inspiring song after inspiring song, with three or four motifs running through the entire score to provide continuity and heighten the drama of a story whose outcome everyone knows but for which the details are in long-past classroom memories. The casting under Leigh Silverman’s direction, and the scoring (music director is Andrea Grody) are excellent.

If you’re lucky enough to have tickets for Suffs at the Public, where it follows in large Newman Theater footsteps, you’re in for a treat. If not, you’ll likely have to wait until it goes to Broadway — which I fervently hope it will. Right next to the musical she’s co-writing with Sir Elton John for the Broadway-bound Devil Wears Prada. (Taub is lyricist for Devil, which is set for a pre-Broadway Chicago run this summer while Taub will be back on stage performing in Central Park as part of a revival of Twelfth Night.)

There will be inevitable comparisons to Lin-Manuel Miranda and Hamilton. Don’t let them scare you. Suffs is not Hamilton. And most importantly, Taub is not The Next Lin-Manuel — she is original Shaina Taub.

Song sample: “How Long”.

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