alphabetical author index

No Way to Treat a Lady

  • Douglas J. Cohen
  • Full Length Musical, Dramatic Comedy, 1970s
  • 2M, 2F
  • ISBN: 9780573626333

"TERRIFIC! HILARIOUS! DYNAMIC! An unabashedly histrionic romp with plenty of laughs, a fair share of romance and a welcome abundance of drollery."

The Los Angeles Times

"Catchy tunes and snappy lyrics... Mr. Cohen's score is a reassuring fusion, a mastery of traditional musical comedy style adoring and informing an offbeat story. A beguiling musical!"

The New York Times

  • Full Length Musical
  • Dramatic Comedy
  • 120 minutes

  • Time Period: 1970s
  • Target Audience: Teen (Age 14 - 18), Senior, Adult
  • Set Requirements: Unit Set/Multiple Settings
  • Cautions: Gun Shots, Mild Adult Themes
  • Orchestra Size: Small/Combo

  • Performance Group:
  • Large Stage, Dinner Theatre, Community Theatre, Professional Theatre, Outdoor, Shoestring Budget, Reader's Theatre, Blackbox / Second Stage /Fringe Groups, College Theatre / Student
This theatrically charged musical comedy thriller about a publicity crazed actor turned killer and the endearing detective who pursues him is based on the best selling novel that became a renowned movie. It is a devilish blend of humor, romance and murder with four meaty roles, two requiring great versatility: the killer adopts a myriad of disguises including a tango instructor, French waiter, female barfly and priest while one actress plays the detective's mother, the killer's mother and three of his victims.

Douglas J. Cohen is the recipient of the Fred Ebb Award for Musical Theatre Songwriting, two Richard Rodgers Awards, a Jonathan Larson Grant, the Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Theatre Foundation Award, and the inaugural Noël Coward Prize.


"Terrific! Hilarious! Dynamic! An unabashedly histrionic romp with plenty of laughs, a fair share of romance and a welcome abundance of drollery."

 The Los Angeles Times

"The best news about this 1987 Off-Broadway vehicle, which incorporates an oddball premise for musical into a surprisingly conventional framework, was the arrival of a major musical-theatre tunesmith. Cohen's delightful songs (love ballads, soft-shoe ditties, jazz, and more), boasting smart lyrics and lilting melodies, display a hand adept at revealing character nuances and advancing the story. Four triple-threat performers maximize the pleasures here...fresh and vibrant offering is a splendid way to treat an audience."


CRITIC'S PICK! "5 out of 5 stars! A divinely fresh entertainment."

"A fine way to treat a musical! A real winner."

 The New York Post

"Catchy tunes and snappy lyrics... Mr. Cohen's score is a reassuring fusion, a mastery of traditional musical comedy style adorning and informing an offbeat story. A beguiling musical."

 The New York Times

"A lighthearted romp."

 Associated Press

"A fine and dandy way to treat an audience... It should be on Broadway."

 The New York Observer

Premiere Production:

No Way to Treat a Lady premiered off-Broadway in a sold-out, extended run at the Hudson Guild Theatre in 1987 directed by Ton Award winner Jack Hofsiss and starring Stephen Bogardus, Liz Callaway, Peter Slutsker and June Gable.

It received an off-Broadway revival in 1996-97 at the York Theatre Company by Scott Schwartz and starring Adam Grupper, Paul Schoeffler, Alex Korey, and Marguerite MacIntyre. It was nominated for two Outer Critics Circle Awards (Best Revival and Best Featured Actress) as well as a Drama Desk Award.

  • Casting: 2M, 2F
  • Casting Attributes: Strong Role for Leading Woman (Star Vehicle), Strong Role for Leading Man (Star Vehicle), Expandable casting
  • Casting Notes: The actor playing Kit Gill disguises himself as seven other characters within the course of the play: an Irish priest, an Arthur Murray dance class instructor, a French waiter, a telephone repairman, a pizza delivery messenger, a New York cop, and a female barfly. The actress playing the character woman portray five different women: Det. Morris Brummell's Jewish mother; Kit Gill's legendary actress-mother, Alexandra Gill; an Irish widow; an Italian former Queen of the Roseland Ballroom; and a lonley barfly. In both productions in England, the part was split between two actresses, although it is strongly preferred that one actress play all five roles.
  • Chorus Size: No Chorus

  • MORRIS BRUMMELL - 30s-40s; fairly well-built; a man of physical strength who hasn't quite figured out how to use it to his advantage. Although he is far from being classically handsome, Morris' looks are appealing and he possesses a warm, inviting smile and "mensch"-like presence. Even though he lives with his mother, he should not be a typical "mama's boy." Kit unleashes a darker, more ambitious side to Morris' personality, but one should be careful not to go too far: after all, Morris is the hero of the show.
  • CHRISTOPHER "KIT" GILL - 30s-40s; Kit is athletic and agile with exceptionally strong hands. His youthful, almost angelic face masks his demonic tendencies. For Kit, murder is the ultimate performance and not a gruesome exercise. An actor oozing charm is essential if the audience is to be seduced along with his victims. Kit is all about style and panache -- like John Barrymore. Everything he knows about life is as a result of watching theatre. His performance should demonstrate he is a musical comedy performer gone awry.
  • SARAH STONE - 30s; svelte; attractive; sunny; funny; sophisticated. She is a modern-day Carole Lombard. Sarah, on the surface, has led a "charmed" existence, but on a closer examination one can read the painful lessons of the past.
  • FLORA BRUMMELL / VICTIMS (ALEXANDRA GILL, CARMELLA, SADIE, MRS. SULLIVAN - More than sharing an obvious physical resemblance, these women are all mature, strong and maternal. Yet in the case of Flora and Alexandra, their "maternal" instincts are sometimes questionable. Alexandra is guilty of giving Kit too little love (the theatre is her one and only love), while Flora is guilty of lavishing too much attention on Morris. Both women at times belittle their sons, robbing them of their pride and self-confidence. Flora does this for self-preservation: if Morris continues to depend on her, she will never be alone. (The actress playing these roles need not be mature as long as she is able to project maturity.) This role has been successfully divided into two roles in both United Kingdom productions: one actress plays FLORA and the other portrays ALEXANDRA and the three victims.