top of page


Almost 60 years after S.H. Hinton’s 1967 novel. “The Outsiders” was published, and 40 years after director Francis Ford Coppola produced a film version in 1983, the coming-of-age classic comes to Broadway. Hinton’s novel, set in Tulsa, became a standard on juvenile reading lists in many parts of the country (in some parts it’s banned). Coppola's movie has become a cult favorite, partly because it introduced a group of young actors who became known as the “brat pack” , some of whom became major movie stars.

The Broadway musical preserves the story - almost literally - and, like the movie version, assembles an incredibly talented and likable cast of young actors. Three Curtis brothers, who lost their parents, live on the “other side of the tracks” . Darrel (played by Brent Comer), the oldest, tries to keep the household together. Sodapop (Jason Schmidt), the middle brother, is the go-between for Darrel and Ponyboy (Brody Grant), the youngest, smart and sensitive but a rebel. The story is told from Ponyboy’s point of view.

The Curtises and Ponyboy’s pal, Johnny Cade (Sky Lakota-Lynch), identify as Greasers, the rough guys from the poor side of town; Ponyboy and Johnny’s mentor is ex-con Dallas Winston (Joshua Boone) The Greasers’ are at ods with the Socs (short for “society”), the tough guys from the rich part of town. (Thinking of the Jets and the Sharks from “West Side Story” is unavoidable.). When the Socs attack Ponyboy and Johnny to avenge Dallas’s flirting with one of the Soc’s girlfriends, Cherry (Emma Pitman), one of the Socs is stabbed fatally by Johnny. Abetted by Dallas, Ponyboy and Johnny flee out of town to an abandoned church, but Johnny is paralyzed rescuing schoolchildren from a fire that consumes the church they are visiting on a school picnic. The story takes two tragic turns (no spoiler here). In the end, the Curtis brothers resolve to support Ponyboy, on a path of education out of Tulsa to break the pattern of poverty and life as a Greaser.

In the end, “The Outsiders” is a message of hope. Under the direction of Danya Taymor, who developed the show at the La Jolla Playhouse, it avoids sentimentality, preserving a hard-knocks, practical sensibility to the end. The book, based on both novel and movie, by Adam Rapp and Justin Levine is remarkably faithful to the movie. The lyrics by Levine and a composing team who crafted the music, are unusually expositional; the opening song by Ponyboy ”Tulsa ‘67” introduces all the main characters. One of the major assets of the musical is that it doesn’t make the story “more acceptable”; its depiction of teenage smoking and drinking and gang violence, which has had the book banned in some parts of the USA, is vividly dramatized.

Most noteworthy is the set design (called scenography in the Playbill program) by AMP featuring Tatiana Kahvegian, whose best known project is “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”. The fixed set uses large props to create scenes or mimic events directly from the movie. An old, battered car in the yard sits stage right to place us in the Curtis's impoverished home. A rickety card table defines their kitchen. A huge truck tire, laying flat, serves as the fountain in the playground where Johnny stabs a Soc, recreating the movie scene. Wooden scaffolding suggests the church where Ponyboy and Johnny hide out. Wide wooden planks supported by the ensemble serve as timbers falling in the church fire.

The choreography by Rick Kuperman and Jeff Kuperman integrates the ensemble’s movement with these major props. The use of slow motion and stop action for the gang rumbles is particularly effective. Given the time and place - 1960s Oklahoma - the dozen and half songs are, appropriately, folk, country-western and some bluegrass. The cast is unusually skilled vocally, especially Brent Comer and Jason Schmidt as Ponyboy’s older brothers. The standout, though, is Brody Grant as Ponyboy; both his acting and singing are assured and resolute, especially for a Broadway debut. The showstoppers belong to Joshua Boone as Dallas in back-to-back numbers, “Trouble” and the gospel-based “Little Brother” near the end of the show.

At the matinee performance that I attended, teenage students from New York City junior and senior high schools packed the house. It’s always gratifying to get young people into a theater; who can’t forget the first time one went to a live show? In the case of “The Outsiders”, the musical likely ties in with the reading programs in schools. That’s good but the musical’s takeaway - stay in school, get an education, despite whatever hardships you face - seems more vital now than ever.


Featured Posts
Check back soon
Once posts are published, you’ll see them here.
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page