Photograph: Courtesy Joan MarcusSuffs
  • Theater, Musicals
  • Music Box Theatre, Midtown West
  • Open run
  • Recommended



4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

Broadway review by Regina Robbins 

When the women’s-rights activist Alice Paul, the central figure of Shaina Taub’s musical Suffs, starts planning a march down Pennsylvania Avenue ahead of Woodrow Wilson’s 1913 inauguration, a fellow protester volunteers to ride a white horse at the head of the procession. Paul and others are skeptical: With everything else on their plates, who has time to find a horse? But when the day arrives, their comrade does lead the demonstration astride a white steed—an amusing and historically accurate flourish in an otherwise earnest scene. This early triumph for the suffragists, however, is followed by a steep uphill climb toward the passage of the 19th Amendment. Their struggle is compounded by political and personal conflicts among women divided by age, race and class; alliances are strained, friendships are tested and blood is spilled for the cause of equality. When the curtain comes down for intermission, the returning image of that young woman on horseback may now put a lump in your throat.

Suffs | Photograph: Courtesy Joan Marcus

After premiering at the Public Theatre in 2022, Suffs now marches to Broadway with its intrepid director, Leigh Silverman, still leading the way, and most of its principal cast intact: Writer-composer-lyricist Taub makes her Broadway debut as Paul; the invaluable Jenn Colella is Carrie Chapman Catt, the reigning grande dame of the suffrage movement, and Nikki M. James is the civil-rights leader Ida B. Wells. These performers’ individual charisma helps deepen our understanding of the tensions that threaten their characters’ political partnership. “Why are you fighting me? / I am not the enemy” is a refrain we hear again and again as the suffs press on through years of gains, losses and bitter infighting. When Black suffragists are asked to walk at the rear of Paul’s march to avoid offending Southerners, Wells is ready to walk away entirely: “Wait my turn?” she sings, incredulously. “When will you white women ever learn?” For her part, Paul can’t understand why Catt wants to make nice with President Wilson—played in drag by a gleefully obnoxious Grace McLean—instead of forcing his hand, while Catt worries that Paul’s scorched-earth approach will undo decades of hard-won progress. (Any similarity between these conflicts and recent politics is entirely intentional.)

Suffs | Photograph: Courtesy Joan Marcus

Paul’s tactics may have been radical in her time, but Suffs isn’t attempting to revolutionize musical theater. Taub’s score makes compelling use of traditional song styles to establish the world this fight is being waged in. “Great American Bitch,” a lively waltz, spotlights the women of Paul’s inner circle (Kim Blanck is especially fabulous as a Socialist immigrant who’s ready to throw down at a moment’s notice); in the gentle ballad “Worth It,” Paul wonders if forgoing marriage and family for the sake of the movement is the right choice. The several new songs that Paul has added since the Off Broadway production add detail and color to the story, but sometimes risk stretching it too thin; happily, Silverman’s elegant and arresting staging—with major assists from Riccardo Hernández’s scenic design and Lap Chi Chu’s lighting—rewards our patience. When the full ensemble of seventeen female and nonbinary actors joins together to sing the elegy “How Long?”, it’s a powerful reminder that these women aren’t disinterested political operators: They’re fighting to be seen.

Suffs is a full-throated musical call to action, and its message is neither subtle nor ambivalent: It wants to light a fire under you. But this unapologetic love letter to those who risked life and limb to get women a seat at the table is also heart-tugging, vibrant and charming. The combination is hard to resist. It’s got my vote.

Suffs. Music Box Theatre (Broadway). Book, music, and lyrics by Shaina Taub. Directed by Leigh Silverman. With Taub, Jenn Colella, Nikki M. James, Grace McLean, Ally Bonino, Kim Blanck, Hannah Cruz, Nadia Dandashi, Emily Skinner. Running time: 2hrs 25mins. One intermission.

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Suffs | Photograph: Courtesy Joan Marcus


Event website:
Music Box Theatre
239 W 45th St
New York
Cross street:
between Broadway and Eighth Ave
Subway: N, Q, R, 42nd St S, 1, 2, 3, 7 to 42nd St–Times Sq

Dates and times

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