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Kiss of the Spider Woman (musical)

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Title: Kiss of the Spider Woman (musical)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: 47th Tony Awards, Passion (musical), Drood, Evita (musical), Annie (musical)
Collection: 1993 Musicals, Broadway Musicals, Lgbt-Related Musicals, Musicals Based on Novels, Musicals by Kander and Ebb, Tony Award for Best Musical, West End Musicals
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Kiss of the Spider Woman (musical)

Kiss of the Spider Woman
Broadway Playbill
Music John Kander
Lyrics Fred Ebb
Book Terrence McNally
Basis Manuel Puig novel
Kiss of the Spider Woman
Productions 1990 SUNY Purchase
1992 West End
1993 Broadway
1995 Buenos Aires
1999 Houston
2005 St. Louis
2011 Melbourne
2015 Amsterdam
Awards Tony Award for Best Musical
Tony Award for Best Book
Tony Award for Best Score

Kiss of the Spider Woman is a musical with music by John Kander and Fred Ebb, with the book by Terrence McNally. It is based on the Manuel Puig novel El Beso de la Mujer Araña. The musical had runs in the West End (1992) and Broadway (1993) and won the 1993 Tony Award for Best Musical.

Despite a decidedly mixed review by Frank Rich, the musical ran on Broadway for 904 performances.


  • Plot 1
  • Songs 2
  • Productions 3
  • Response 4
  • Awards and nominations 5
    • Original London production 5.1
    • Original Broadway production 5.2
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Luis Alberto Molina, a homosexual window dresser, is in a prison in a Latin American country, serving his third year of an eight-year-sentence for corrupting a minor. He lives in a fantasy world to flee the prison life, the torture, fear and humiliation. His fantasies turn mostly around movies, particularly around a vampy diva, Aurora. He loves her in all roles, but one scares him: This role is the spider woman, who kills with her kiss.

One day, a new man is brought into his cell: Valentin Arregui Paz, a Marxist revolutionary, already in a bad state of health after torture. Molina cares for him and tells him of Aurora. But Valentin can't stand Molina and his theatrical fantasies and draws a line on the floor to stop Molina from coming nearer to him. Molina, however, continues talking, mostly to block out the cries of the tortured prisoners, about Aurora and his mother. Valentin at last tells Molina that he is in love with a girl named Marta.

Again, Valentin is tortured, again Molina has to care for him afterwards. In his fantasies, Aurora is next to him, helping him do so.

The prison director announces to Molina that his mother is very ill and that Molina will be allowed to see her on one condition: he must tell them the name of Valentin's girlfriend.

Molina tells Valentin about his love: A waiter named Gabriel. Only a short while afterwards, Molina gets hallucinations and cramps after knowingly eating poisoned food intended for Valentin. He is brought to the hospital ward, talking to Aurora and his mother. As Molina is brought back, Valentin starts suffering from the same symptoms, also from poisoned food. Molina is afraid that Valentin will be given substances that might make him talk and so protects Valentin from being taken to the hospital. As Molina nurses him, Valentin asks him to tell him about his movies.

Molina is happy to do so; Valentin also shares his fantasies and hopes with Molina. Molina is allowed a short while at the telephone with his mother, back he announces to Valentin that he's going to be freed for his good behaviour the next day. Valentin begs him to do a few telephone calls for him, Molina at first refuses, but Valentin knows how to persuade his cell mate.

Molina is brought back the next day, heavily injured. He has been caught in the telephone call, but refuses to tell whom he has phoned. The warden draws his pistol, threatening to shoot him, if he doesn't tell. Molina confesses his love to Valentin and is shot. The scene then shifts to Molina in a heaven like world, where all of the people in his life are watching his final "movie." The Spider Woman arrives and gives her deadly kiss as the curtain falls.



Kiss of the Spider Woman was given a workshop by New Musicals, whose goal was to create, develop, and provide a working home for sixteen new musicals over four years, at the Performing Arts Center, State University of New York at Purchase in May 1990. It was directed by Harold Prince with choreography by Susan Stroman and featured John Rubinstein, Kevin Gray, Lauren Mitchell, and Harry Goz.[1] An attempt to persuade New York critics not to review this initial production (given its workshop status) failed, with Frank Rich in The New York Times,[2][3] followed by other critics covering the production and filing mostly negative reviews.[4] New Musicals folded after Spider Woman.

Two years later, the producer Garth Drabinsky became involved, and his company, Livent, produced the show in Toronto at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, Bluma Appel Theatre in June 1992. The cast starred Brent Carver as Molina, Anthony Crivello as Valentin and Chita Rivera as Spider Woman/Aurora.[5][6]

Kiss of the Spider Woman premiered in the West End at the Shaftesbury Theatre on October 20, 1992, where it ran for 390 performances. Directed by Harold Prince with choreography by Vincent Paterson and co-choreography by Rob Marshall, it starred Brent Carver as Molina, Anthony Crivello as Valentin, and Chita Rivera as Spider Woman/Aurora.[7] The production won the Evening Standard Award for Best Musical.

It opened on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre on May 3, 1993 and closed on July 1, 1995 after 904 performances. It was again directed by Harold Prince, with choreography by Vincent Paterson and Rob Marshall, scenic design and projection design by Jerome Sirlin, costume design by Florence Klotz, and lighting design by Howell Binkley. The cast included Brent Carver, Anthony Crivello and Chita Rivera repeating their roles, as well as Merle Louise and Kirsti Carnahan. Carver, Crivello, and Rivera won Tony Awards for their performances. Notable replacements included: Brian Stokes Mitchell (Valentin), Howard McGillin and Jeff Hyslop (Molina); and, as Aurora: María Conchita Alonso, Vanessa L. Williams, and Carol Lawrence. The teaming of McGillin, Williams, and Mitchell was so strong that many critics felt they were superior to the original cast, and in a rare step a second cast album was recorded featuring these principals.

The US regional theater premier took place at Masquerade Theatre in Houston, TX in May 1999. Directed and choreographed by Jim Williams, the show featured scenic and lighting design by Amy Ross and music direction by Brandon Matthews. The cast included Gina Nepoli-Holmes as Aurora, L. Jay Meyer as Molina, Pablo Bracho as Valentine, Monica Rial as Molina's Mother, Jacqui Williams as Marta, Tim Wroble as Gabriel, and Todd Porter as The Warden.

It opened in Buenos Aires, Argentina at the Lola Membrives Theatre on May 2, 1995.

A reduced production with a cast of 7 opened at The Darlinghust Theatre in Sydney, Australia on 13 July 2010. Directed and choreographed by Stephen Colyer and music directed by Craig Renshaw, the cast included Alexis Fishman (Aurora/Marta), James Lee (Molina), Frank Hansen (Valentin), Jennifer White (Molina's Mother), Wayne McDaniel (The Warden), Jim Williams (Estabon/Gabriel), and Matt Young (Marcos/Aurelio).

The UCLU Musical Theatre Society is performing Kiss of the Spider Woman at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival


In his review of the Broadway production for The New York Times, Frank Rich wrote that the musical "does not meet all the high goals it borrows from Manuel Puig's novel. When it falls short, it pushes into pretentious overdrive (a "Morphine Tango", if you please) and turns the serious business of police-state torture into show-biz kitsch every bit as vacuous as the B-movie cliches parodied in its celluloid fantasies. Yet the production does succeed not only in giving Ms. Rivera a glittering spotlight but also in using the elaborate machinery of a big Broadway musical to tell the story of an uncloseted, unhomogenized, unexceptional gay man who arrives at his own heroic definition of masculinity."[8]

Awards and nominations

Original London production

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1993 Laurence Olivier Award Best New Musical Nominated
Best Actor in a Musical Brent Carver Nominated
Best Director of a Musical Harold Prince Nominated
Best Set Design Jerome Sirlin Nominated
Best Lighting Design Howell Binkley Won

Original Broadway production

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
1993 Tony Award Best Musical Won
Best Book of a Musical Terrence McNally Won
Best Original Score John Kander and Fred Ebb Won
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Brent Carver Won
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Chita Rivera Won
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Anthony Crivello Won
Best Direction of a Musical Harold Prince Nominated
Best Choreography Vincent Paterson and Rob Marshall Nominated
Best Scenic Design Jerome Sirlin Nominated
Best Costume Design Florence Klotz Won
Best Lighting Design Howell Binkley Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Musical Won
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Brent Carver Won
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Chita Rivera Won
Outstanding Music John Kander Nominated
Outstanding Set Design Jerome Sirlin Nominated
Outstanding Costume Design Florence Klotz Nominated


  1. ^ Klein, Alvin."Purchase Campus Plays Host to Broadway Stars" The New York Times, May 6, 1990
  2. ^ "Reviewed Over Protest" The New York Times, June 1, 1990
  3. ^ Rich, Frank.Review/Theater; In a Prison Cell, 2 Men and a Movie Musical" The New York Times, June 1, 1990
  4. ^ Suskin, Steven. Show Tunes" (Ed 3, revised, 2000). Oxford University Press US, ISBN 0-19-512599-1, p. 338-339
  5. ^ Kander, John and Ebb, Fred. "Script,'Kiss of the Spider Woman' p.4", retrieved February 22, 2010
  6. ^ Atkey, Mel. Broadway North: The Dream of a Canadian Musical Theatre (2006). Natural Heritage/Natural History, Inc. ISBN 1-897045-08-5. p. 220
  7. ^ 'Kiss of the Spider Woman' listing
  8. ^ Rich, Frank."Review/Theater; For the Musical, a Love Affair Beyond the Liaison in a Latin Jail", The New York Times, May 4, 1993

External links

  • Kiss of the Spider Woman at the Internet Broadway Database
  • Kiss of the Spider WomanWorking in the Theatre: , panel discussion featuring the creators of the Broadway production
  • The Guide to Musical Theatre - Plot summary, production photographs Kiss of the Spider Woman
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