Melancholy Play: a chamber musical

by  Sarah Ruhl, Todd Almond

Full Length Musical, Dramatic Comedy  /  3m, 3f

In this chamber musical version of Sarah Ruhl's Melancholy Play, Tilly’s melancholy is of an exquisite quality. She turns her melancholy into a sexy thing, and every stranger she meets falls in love with her...

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Melancholy Play: a chamber musical

by  Sarah Ruhl Todd Almond

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  • Cast Size

    Cast Size

    3m, 3f
  • Duration


    120 minutes (2 hours)
  • SubGenre


  • Accolades


    From Off-Broadway
  • Audience

    Target Audience

    • Adult
    • Teen (Age 14 - 18)

Additional Info

In this chamber musical version of Sarah Ruhl's Melancholy Play, Tilly’s melancholy is of an exquisite quality. She turns her melancholy into a sexy thing, and every stranger she meets falls in love with her. One day, inexplicably, Tilly becomes happy, and wreaks havoc on the lives of her paramours. Frances, Tilly’s hairdresser, becomes so melancholy that she turns into an almond. It is up to Tilly to get her back.
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  • Sarah Ruhl is the 2003 recipient of the Whiting Award for Drama



”...could turn out to be quite a central pillar of the Ruhl canon… an extensive score from (Todd) Almond that, formatively at least, puts you in mind of some Stephen Sondheim chamber musical like "Passion," or maybe something by William Finn… the addition of music feels very organic to the work... you'd have no idea that was not the plan all along. The music adds to the considerable sensuality, and the notable wit, of the piece. This is a classy show [at Piven], with a sparse elegance.” - Chicago Tribune


The Simple Path of MELANCHOLY PLAY
by Todd Almond
May 29, 2015


  • Melancholy Play, Arbor Cafe trailer
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Performing Groups

  • College Theatre / Student
  • Community Theatre
  • Dinner Theatre
  • Professional Theatre
  • Shoestring Budget
  • Large Stage
  • Blackbox / Second Stage /Fringe Groups


  • Caution Mild Adult Mild Adult Themes

License details

  • Licensing fees and rental materials quoted upon application.



  • Time Period: Contemporary, Present Day
  • Duration: 120 minutes (2 hours)
  • Setting: Illinois. The present moment. Many windows, a chaise, and several doors from which to enter and exit rapidly. A mirror. A potted palm. A chair. A few chandeliers. Or lamps. Perhaps a real balcony, opening into the night air.
  • Additional Features: No intermission
  • Features / Contains: Contemporary Costumes / Street Clothes


  • Musical Style: Classic Broadway, Folk
  • Vocal Demands: Difficult
  • Orchestra Size: Small/Combo
  • Chorus Size: No Chorus

Song Samples

Frances Explains to Joan about Her affair with Tilly
Beauty Shop
Frank and Tilly Make Love
I'm Happy Now
Tilly's Aria


3m, 3f
FRANK - a tailor
TILLY - a bank teller
FRANCES - a hairdresser
JOAN - a British nurse
LORENZO THE UNFEELING - a psychiatrist
JULIAN - a musician
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Cast Attributes

  • Ensemble cast
  • Non-Traditional casting
  • Flexible casting
  • Strong Role for Leading Woman (Star Vehicle)

Casting Notes

in addition to Matthew, the pianist, there is ideally a string quartet.


Rehearsal Resources

Music Material Rental Packages Glyphs / UI / Tooltip

Full Package

6 Piano/Conductor Scores

Violin I
Violin II



Sarah Ruhl

Sarah Ruhl’s plays include How to Transcend a Happy Marriage, For Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday, The Oldest Boy, In the Next Room, or the vibrator play, The Clean House, Orlando, Late: a cowboy song, Dear Elizabeth and Stage Kiss. She is a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and a Tony Award nominee. Her plays have been ...

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Todd Almond

Todd Almond is a composer, lyricist, and playwright. For The Public Theater/Shakespeare in the Park, he wrote the music and lyrics for the Public Works production of The Tempest at the Delacorte Theater (a production in which he also starred as Ariel). His musicals include Girlfriend (Berkeley Rep., and Actors Theatre ...

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Melancholy Play was first produced at the Piven Theatre under the Artistic Direction of Joyce Piven, opening on June 28, 2002, in Evanston, IL, directed by Jessica Thebus, music by Greg Hirte. Melacholy Play: a chamber musical was first produced by 13P at the Invisible Dog, in Brooklyn, directed by Davis McCallum.

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