A Comprehensive Guide to Theatrical References in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Season 2
This is the second part of our season-by-season rundown of Broadway showtunes by episode.
On February 18, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel returned to television and laptop screens across the world for the premiere of its fourth season. The Emmy Award-winning show is renowned for its ability to reference the aesthetic and social idiosyncrasies of the late 1950s, which, naturally, include a bevy of theatrical references. So enamored is the show with the stage that much of the third season centered on a dreamed-up Broadway production, and season 4 promises to be filled with even more theatrical delights.
In celebration, we went on an exhaustive hunt for (almost) every single theatrical reference from the first three seasons of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Here you will find our coverage of season 2, with seasons 3 and 4 to follow in future installments. (You can read season 1 here.) How many references did you spot upon first viewing?
Note: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel films primarily in New York and features numerous theatrical performers in supporting roles. Because of the sheer number of actors involved, they have been omitted as references; for this piece, a reference is defined as an explicit call-out to the theater or to something produced by the theater, such as a song on the soundtrack coming from a musical theater cast recording. If a performer does not play a theatrically oriented character, they are not singled out in this list.
"I'm The Greatest Star" - Funny Girl
This iconic song of self-confidence scored the trailer for the second season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, strengthening the relationship between Midge and Miss Streisand.
"Just Leave Everything To Me" - Hello, Dolly!
The Streisand infatuation continues in Episode One of Season Two, as her opening number from the Hello, Dolly! movie opens the season with Midge bustling around B. Altman.
"You're In Paris" - Ben Franklin in Paris
The baton remains with Jerry Herman as Midge is transported to Paris, with this dainty ensemble number from his oft forgotten musical Ben Franklin in Paris.
"Tea For Two" - No, No, Nanette
As Midge watches the romantic sights of Paris, she is inspired to call Joel back in New York to try and work things out in a real way. He shuts her down, telling her that "for us to be together you'd have to give (stand up) up."
"Artificial Flowers" - Tenderloin
Back at the Maisel Family Factory, the musical Tenderloin is again celebrated with Bobby Darin's cover of "Artificial Flowers" underscoring Joel stepping up to the plate and beginning to take over the family business. As he fixes a steam press, he remarks "Well, it's not Gershwin, but it's moving."
"Some Other Time" - On the Town
As Midge's parents Abe and Rose leave Paris, the mournful finale of On the Town plays.
"There's No Business Like Show Business" - Annie Get Your Gun
Back at the Gaslight club, Susie sleeps on the empty stage after she and Midge are stiffed by a sexist club manager.
"They Can't Take That Away From Me - Shall We Dance
The Weissman family retreat together to the Catskills, and to the Steiner Mountain Resort, a borscht belt vacation haven. That night at dinner, a lounge singer performs this Gershwin classic.
"S'Wonderful" - Funny Face
After a disastrous first meeting, Midge takes a liking to one of the men from the resort; Benjamin. As Midge readies herself for their first date (at a Broadway play), the Julie London cover of this seminal Gershwin song underscores her excitement.
The Legend of Lizzie
And what about that play? The Legend of Lizzie, a play based on the life and infamy of Lizzie Borden, actually played Broadway for two performances in 1959, the year Season Two is set in. Only one wrinkle; it played February 9th and 10th of 1959, and Midge and Benjamin saw it in the summer. Listen closely to the sound of the actors onstage as Midge and Benjamin watch the play; you'll hear Broadway stalwart Danny Burstein as District Attorney Sewell!
Both Midge and Benjamin try to convince themselves they're enjoying the play, but when they give up the ruse, they decide to leave during the intermission. To quote Midge - "I really like the theatre. Sitting in a dark room, everyone enjoying a story. There's electricity in the air. And this play, I mean, it's got everything. Curtains, lights, a floor."
"Young Than Springtime" - South Pacific
Fast forward a few episodes, and we meet Shy Baldwin, a crooner clearly based on Johnny Mathis. Both he and Midge are scheduled to perform at a telethon not unlike the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethons. Shy performs his rendition of "Younger Than Springtime" from South Pacific as Midge and Susie scheme to move her timeslot.
"Pink Shoelaces" - Micki Grant
This popular hit, performed here as a dance number during the telethon, was written by the late great Micki Grant, the first Black woman to compose a show for Broadway. She wrote the music, the lyrics, and the book for the musical Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope, which she also starred in.
After the Telethon, Lenny tells Midge that he had been invited to appear on Steve Allen's show to rehabilitate his image; Steve Allen was the first host of the Tonight Show. Allen was also a prolific composer, writing by his estimation nearly 8,500 songs in his lifetime. He wrote the music and lyrics for Sophie, a musical based on the life and times of the last of the red hot mamas, Sophie Tucker.
"Shall We Dance?" - The King and I
In one of the most overt musical-theater references in the series, we witness in flashback Joel's proposal to Midge. He rigs up the sound system outside of their favorite diner to play S"hall We Dance" from The King and I to her as he stands in the middle of the street, boisterous and bold as she exclaims "It's my favorite show! He took me to it three times." When she accepts his proposal, they polka in the middle of the street, car horns sounding as they smile.