A Comprehensive Guide to Theatrical References in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Season 3
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 3, with season 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.
Season 3 kicks off with a big USO show before Midge goes out 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 Gaieties
"Manhattan," one of the most popular Rodgers and Hart songs, plays as Midge says goodbye to her childhood home.
"Luck Be a Lady" – Guys and Dolls
Frank Sinatra's cover of the classic Frank Loesser tune sounds as the tour arrives in glimmering Las Vegas.
"They Say It's Wonderful" – Annie Get Your Gun
Shy Baldwin performs this tender love song in Las Vegas, and it then opens the following episode after being presented as one of his biggest hits.
"Lovely Day Today" – Call Me Madam
Midge convinces Susie to have a restful girls night with her, complete with face masks during one of their last nights in Vegas.
"The Man I Used to Be" – Pipe Dream
Abe and Rose have moved out of the city, to mixed results. This song from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Pipe Dream plays as Rose convinces Abe to run away with her in a cab, having reached her breaking point with their WASP neighbors.
"Almost Like Being in Love" – Brigadoon
Shy Baldwin performs this strident song from Brigadoon when the tour reaches Miami.
"A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody" – The Ziegfeld Follies
This Ziegfeld Follies and Irving Berlin staple plays as women parade down the grand staircase of the Miami hotel, showing off their most glamorous fashions.
Midge runs into Lenny Bruce in Miami, and he brings her to his recording session for a local television show, Miami After Dark. On the program, he jokingly stages a fake fight with Tennessee Williams over Lenny's dislike of his play The Rose Tattoo.
"Till There Was 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 in a romantically lit Miami nightclub.
Willy Loman From Death of a Salesman
At dawn, Midge and Lenny walk the boardwalk outside of the hotel where Lenny is staying; when he tells her that he is now living in the hotel, versus getting an apartment for his extended stay in Miami, Midge exclaims "you're living in a hotel? Who are you, Willy Loman?" in reference to the titular salesman from Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.
"Good Morning" – Singin' in the Rain
The next morning, Midge wakes up on a desk chair poolside, where synchronized swimmers are practicing to "Good Morning" from Singin' in the Rain.
Back in New York, Susie is up to her ears working with her new second client; Miss Sophie Lennon, played by Jane Lynch. Sophie is a cross between Phyllis Diller and the vaudeville comedians of old, and it is through her that The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel steps directly into the theatrical arena, as Susie figures out how to produce a revival of the play Miss Julie for Sophie to star in. Only one problem; the naturalistic play by August Strindberg is far beyond Sophie's capabilities as an actor.
"Please Don't Monkey with Broadway" – Broadway Melody of 1940
This oft-forgotten Cole Porter tune plays as two knockabouts, Frank and Nicky, help Susie strong-arm her way into a theater in which to stage Miss Julie. The catch? Evicting the current tenant, Julie Andrews, from the Barrymore Theatre in an unspecified production. As Nicky says, "This isn't civilized people, this is Broadway!"
Agnes de Mille
In the same strong-arm scene, Frank remarks that he hadn't been to an opening night since "de Mille got us those Oklahoma! tickets!". The two had apparently helped the legendary choreographer carry out her grudges, which was how they got into the theatrical end of the mob's business.
Flower Drum Song and Bye Bye Birdie
During rehearsals for Miss Julie, the companies of Flower Drum Song and Bye Bye Birdie complain when Sophie and her leading man are so loud during backstage sex that it interrupts their performances; that must've been some passion, as Flower Drum Song was playing at the St. James, four whole blocks away!
Back in Miami, Abe runs into an old friend, Asher (played by Jason Alexander), who has moved to Florida. The two were unionizers on the lower east side until Asher moved uptown to become one of the most successful playwrights of his time, before he was blacklisted after being identified as a communist. "I gave the theater all I had, and it sent me away. I was one of the most successful playwrights on Broadway. Every one of my shows made money. I won the Pulitzer Prize. The critics called me the American Chekhov. And then one schmuck calls me a communist, and poof, it's over… twenty years to build a life, two months to watch it go… The theater broke my heart."
Bye Bye Birdie
Back in New York, Moishe and Shirley, Midges former in-laws, go to see Bye Bye Birdie and present her with the show's program during a family breakfast; Moishe has a crush on Chita Rivera, and Shirley can't stop singing the songs off key.
"You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" – Something to Shout About
This Cole Porter song, now considered a jazz standard, plays as Rose and Abe experiment with taking the subway.
"So Long, Farewell" – The Sound of Music
Abe, Midge's father, leaves his job teaching mathematics at Columbia; the classic goodbye song from The Sound of Music echoes the halls as he says goodbye to his students.
"Our Love Is Here to Say" – The Goldwyn Follies
The bouncy Gershwin classic plays as Midge moves back into her childhood home with her parents, who have both decided to forgo attempting to live in the suburbs.
Pillar of Salt
A local theater group is in the middle of producing one of Asher's works, called A Pillar of Salt, for the first time since his blacklist. Abe decides to review the show in an attempt to bring attention back to his friend's good name, and when Asher reads the review, he is incensed 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 is walking past the 1959 musical adaptation of the western Destry Rides Again when out of the blue, legendary producer David Merrick pulls up in a car to throw tomatoes at him. Merrick had read his review of Pillar of Salt, and despised it so much he had hunted him down. Posters for Do Rei Mi, An Evening With Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and The Unsinkable Molly Brown can also be seen in the background. "Don't you understand? My piece, it got to them. My words incited theater people, people who make a living sitting down, it incited them to get up and commit an act of physical violence!"
The Village Voice
At the very end of the third season, it is revealed that Abe has gotten a job as a theater critic for The Village Voice, one of the most prominent downtown newspapers at the time. This burgeoning passion is likely to be a significant plot point in Season 4, so keep your eyes peeled for many more theater references in the new season, now available on Amazon Prime.