Metro Weekly

‘Suffs’ is Broadway’s Most Essential Show

The new Broadway musical "Suffs" educates, inspires, and persuades -- all while being incredibly entertaining.

Suffs: Jenn Colella and company - Photo: Joan Marcus
Suffs: Jenn Colella and company – Photo: Joan Marcus

The Schuyler sisters aren’t the only women looking for a “mind at work.” As socialites in the hit show Hamilton, oldest sister Angelica sings, “I’m a girl in which, my only job is to marry rich.” None of them would live long enough to experience the painstaking efforts assumed by their female successors for a woman’s right to vote.

Fortunately, their descendants and current audiences are hearing a completely different song just a few blocks away in New York’s theater district, thanks largely to Shaina Taub.

An Obie Award-winning singer/songwriter, Taub has written the book, a winning score, and lyrics for the completely original, historically based Suffs, which tracks the decades-long struggle for fair and equal treatment of women to be treated as equally as men. The show educates, inspires, and persuades — all while being incredibly entertaining.

Taub also stars in the show as Alice Paul, an activist considered one of the major architects of the twentieth-century suffragist movement. Truly, a woman’s work is never done, especially when it comes to changing the short-sighted mind of President Woodrow Wilson (Grace McLean).

You need only look at current headlines reporting a rollback on U.S. reproductive rights, global income inequality, access to healthcare and education, and other vital issues around suppression to realize that the fight is far from over. Which makes it a more than ideal time for Suffs — after a critically lauded run downtown at the Public Theatre — to arrive on Broadway.

It’s no wonder that former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton became a producer of the show. Clinton, a long-time supporter of the arts, was moved to join the team after receiving a letter from Taub requesting her assistance.

Suffs: Shaina Taub - Photo: Joan Marcus
Suffs: Shaina Taub – Photo: Joan Marcus

It’s impossible not to watch this deeply heartfelt show without thinking of Clinton, whose chance at being the first female President was usurped by — well, we know the rest. Her experience is particularly brought to mind during the show’s anthem, “Keep Marching.”

Director Leigh Silverman has assembled a cast of powerhouse performers, some of whom are making their Broadway debuts. First-timer Kim Blanck is especially invigorating as Ruza Wenclawska, who, after being a labor unionist and suffragist, focused her efforts on acting. Blanck imbues her with a determined spirit that is immediately endearing.

Taub is also a Broadway newcomer who holds the piece together with grounded focus and unflagging energy. Her depiction of Paul, who knew which battles were worth fighting and which ones to ignore, is measured and passionate.

Jenn Colella is an ideal frenemy to Taub’s Paul. As Carrie Chapman Catt, Collella assumes a wiser, less radical approach to negotiating in a man’s world. Often she butts heads with Paul. Their dynamic, grounded in truth, adds dimension to the show and reveals the cracks within the movement itself.

Nikki M. James takes on the role of Ida B. Wells, a black journalist, and delivers an impactful moment with the song, “Wait My Turn.” When told by Catt and Paul that she must wait a few years before marching in the women’s parade, she reveals pieces of her heart and mind: “You want me to wait my turn? To simply put my sex before my race? Why don’t I leave my skin at home and powder up my face?”

Suffs: - Anastacia McCleskey Laila Erica Drew and Nikki M. James - Photo: Joan Marcus
Suffs: – Anastacia McCleskey Laila Erica Drew and Nikki M. James – Photo: Joan Marcus

That black women were oppressed from participating in the organized fight for women’s voting rights is unconscionable. But wisely, Taub doesn’t ignore the bumps and trials in her narrative of equality. It is proof that progress can be made even if personalities and problems within a cause stand in the way.

Watching Suffs, you get the impression that this cast is not acting at all.

Instead, it feels as if they are conveying their convictions to an audience that either needs to hear the message or is already on board with it.

Although Suffs is a show fundamentally about women’s rights, its sentiments can apply to any group that has been oppressed and suppressed by stronger forces. When one of us is silenced, all of us are silenced.

Suffs (★★★★☆) is playing an open-ended run at the Music Box Theatre, 239 West 45th St. in New York City. Tickets are $89 to $299. Visit

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