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 2 coverage here, with Seasons 3 and 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.
“I am the biggest star” – funny girl
This iconic song of self-confidence marked the trailer for the second season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maiselfurthering the relationship between Midge and Miss Streisand.
“Let me do everything” – Hello Dolly!
The Streisand craze continues in episode one of season two, as his opening number of the Hello Dolly! The film opens the season with Midge bustling around B. Altman.
“You are in Paris” – Ben Franklin in Paris
The stick stays with Jerry Herman as Midge is transported to Paris, with this tricky ensemble number from his oft-forgotten musical Ben Franklin in Paris.
“Tea for two” – No, no, Nanette
As Midge surveys the romantic sights of Paris, she is inspired to call Joel back to New York to try to work things out in a real way. He closes her, telling her that “for us to be together, you would have to give up (standing)”.
“Artificial flowers” – Net
Back to the Maisel Family Factory, the musical Net is celebrated again with the cover of “Artificial Flowers” by Bobby Darin highlighting that Joel takes over and begins to take over the family business. While fixing a steam press, he remarks “Well, it’s not Gershwin, but it’s moving.”
“Again” – On the city
As Midge’s parents, Abe and Rose, leave Paris, the sad finale of On the city rooms.
“There is no business like show business” – Annie take your gun
Back at the Gaslight club, Susie sleeps on the empty stage after she and Midge get stiffed by a sexist club manager.
“They can’t take that away from me – shall we dance
The Weissman family retreats together to the Catskills and to Steiner Mountain Resort, a Borscht Belt vacation haven. That evening, at dinner, a lounge singer performed this Gershwin classic.
“That’s wonderful” – Funny head
After a disastrous first encounter, Midge takes a liking to one of the station’s men; Benjamin. As Midge prepares for their first date (during a Broadway play), Julie London’s cover of this signature Gershwin song underscores her excitement.
The Legend of Lizzie
And what about this game? The Legend of Lizzie, a play based on the life and infamy of Lizzie Borden, actually played on Broadway for two performances in 1959, the year season two is set. A single wrinkle; he played February 9 and 10, 1959, and Midge and Benjamin saw him that summer. Listen carefully to the sound of the actors on stage as Midge and Benjamin watch the play; you’ll hear Broadway mainstay Danny Burstein as District Attorney Sewell!
Midge and Benjamin try to convince each other that they are enjoying the play, but when they give up on the ruse, they decide to leave during intermission. To quote Midge – “I really love theatre. Sitting in a dark room, everyone is enjoying a story. There’s electricity in the air. And this room, I mean, it’s got it all. . Curtains, lights, a floor.”
“Young Than Spring” – South Pacific
Fast forward a few episodes, and we meet Shy Baldwin, a crooner clearly based on Johnny Mathis. He and Midge are scheduled to perform at a telethon similar to the Jerry Lewis MDA telethons. Shy performs her rendition of “Younger Than Springtime” from South Pacific as Midge and Susie plan to move her timeslot.
“Pink Shoelaces” – Micki Grant
This popular hit, performed here as a telethon dance number, was written by the late great Micki Grant, the first black woman to compose a show for Broadway. She wrote the music, lyrics and book for the musical Don’t bother me, I can’t copein which she also starred.
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 estimate nearly 8,500 songs during his lifetime. He wrote the music and lyrics for Sophiaa musical based on the life and times of the last of the hot mamas, Sophie Tucker.
“Are we going to dance?” – The king and me
In one of the series’ most overt references to musical theater, we witness Joel’s proposal to Midge in flashback. He sets up the sound system outside their favorite restaurant to play S “hall We Dance” from The king and me at her as he stands in the middle of the street, loud and bold as she exclaims “That’s my favorite show! He took me out three times.” When she accepts his proposal, they polka in the middle of the street, car horns blaring as they smile.