Set in 1920s Los Angeles, holiness collides with Hollywood in this larger than life tale of one woman’s charismatic rise to fame. But as her popularity grows, so do her enemies, until her sermons, her celebrity and her past combine to put everything she believes in on trial. Two-time Tony Award® winner George Hearn leads a cast of 20 in this new musical about one woman’s determined rise to glory…and fall from grace.

Two-time Tony Award® nominee Carolee Carmello stars as Aimee Semple McPherson, the trailblazing media superstar whose passion for saving souls was matched by her passion for making headlines.  She is joined by George Hearn, Edward Watts, Roz Ryan, Andrew Samonsky and Candy Buckley.

SCANDALOUS has a book and lyrics by Kathie Lee Gifford and music by David Pomeranz and David Friedman.  It is directed by David Armstrong and choreographed by Lorin Latarro.

I have tremendous respect for anyone who attempts to bring a musical to Broadway.  And, given that this is the first big musical written by Kathie Lee Gifford, who did the book and lyrics, I can’t help but applaud and respect her efforts (and those of all involved).  There was wit in her dialogue and lyrics, as well as poignancy.  

McPherson was a complex, intriguing individual, and as such, bringing her story to the stage is a grand feat.  We first meet her as a baby in her mothers arms and witness her growth into a young headstrong bride who later faces disillusionment, ultimately raising above to brilliantly spin herself into an influential, pioneering Pentacostal voice whose powerful sermons brought people to their knees and helped them rise up.

While McPherson is changing the lives of many others in a positive way, we don’t get a sense of her as a woman vs. a leader.   Did her life turn out as she would have hoped?  How would her beloved father have responded to her fame?  What about her first husband….would he have embraced Hollywood Aimee (as she is called)?  And, what of her two children who we never meet and hear of? Did she experience any sense of conflict in living her paparazzi-driven life?  We know this wasn’t her motive, but it was the result.

She was no doubt a force to be reckoned with.  In her brief, fearless life, she developed a large thriving church, Bible college, denomination, and radio station. Her work has led to thousands of churches and spawned thousands of leaders who also carry her passion of spreading the Gospel.

McPherson disappeared in May 1926. At first she was presumed drowned. When she reappeared, she claimed to have been kidnapped. Many didn’t know what to believe. Rumor had it that she hid away with a lover.

The cast delivers.  Roz Ryan is a knockout in the riotous role of Emma Jo Schaeffer as spunky brothel entrepreneur turned McPherson loyal follower and staffer.  Ryan headlines a bawdy, showstopping number A Girl’s Gotta Do What a Girl’s Gotta Do.  Whenever she is on stage, she delivers a star turn. 
Carmello  is  front ‘n center nearly the whole show.  She is the consummate performer with a golden voice.  While she embodies the strength of McPherson, we aren’t privvy to her as an emotional being which would have made me care about her more.  Given that this is her story, and an inspiring one, as we watch her evolve over the years, facing various obstacles along the way, we don’t root for her as we would a gal pal.  She is beyond that, and perhaps that’s the point, but I would have liked a greater sense of McPherson herself, when the lights are low (other than witnessing her pill popping, and people aren’t fawning over her or contesting her message. 
The show, particularly Act II, is lavishly well-staged. Hunky Edward Watts, fig leaves and all, strikes a manly pose as both her first husband and third husband, and numbers like Adam and Eve and Samson and Delilah add some devilish fun.

 For some behind the scenes discussion, watch —

Carmello and her golden voice and the impressive cast are a reason to see this show.  It got a standing ovation the night I was there….and Kathie Lee, who was in the audience, no doubt relished the moment. Who could blame her?!



For performances through November 18th.

Three ways to purchase…..

CALL 877-250-2929, and use the code DIG1SC .

Go ONLINE, and use the code DIG1SC

VISIT Neil Simon Theatre, 250 West 52nd Street.

  For more on the show, go to

 TICKET GIVEAWAY: If you’d like to be entered to win a free pair of tickets to select peformances in November, drop an email to  Put SCANDALOUS GIVEAWAY in the Subject, and share why you’d like to see the show.  Winner will be notified via email.

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