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Terrence McNally’s Plays

Terrence McNally’s prolific career as a playwright spanned sixty decades, over forty plays, and several Tony Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre Award. Here’s a look at some of the standout plays from his long career.

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune

  • Opening Date: Off Broadway opening: June 2nd, 1987 in New York City at the Manhattan Theatre Club; Broadway opening July 26th, 2002.
  • Awards: Two Tony Award nominations including Best Revival of a Play (for the 2002 revival).
  • Synopsis: A short order cook and a waitress spend a night together in a walk-up apartment, where they learn about one another and grow closer over the course of the night.
  • Other Notes: The play is used in the comedy film Frankie and Johnny Are Married, which is about a producer who has trouble trying to mount a production of the play.

Kiss of The Spider Woman

  • Opening Date: May 1990 at The Performing Arts Center at SUNY Purchase.
  • Awards: Seven Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical, one Laurence Olivier Award, and two Drama Desk awards.
  • Synopsis: This musical follows two prison cell mates, Molina and Valentin and the bond they form while trapped together. It is based on the novel “El beso de la mujer araña” by Manuel Puig.
  • Other Notes: The play was prematurely reviewed by critics, including The New York Times, while it was still in a workshop phase on view at SUNY Purchase, receiving negative reviews.

Love! Valour! Compassion!

  • Opening Date: October 11, 1994 in New York City at the Manhattan Theatre Club.
  • Awards: Tony Award for Best Play and Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play.
  • Synopsis: Broadway choreographer Gregory invites seven friends to his summer vacation house in upstate New York. The play follows the progression of their friendship as well as the conflicts they face with one another over the course of the three separate weekends they spend at the house.
  • Other Notes: The play was adapted for the screen and stars much of the original cast of the play. McNally wrote the screenplay as well.

Master Class

  • Opening Date: November 5th, 1995 in New York City at the John Golden Theatre.
  • Awards: Four Tony Awards including Best Play and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play.
  • Synopsis: Opera singer Maria Callas holds a master class, where she ends up revealing much about her life and career to her students.


  • Opening Date: December 8th, 1996 in Toronto at the Ford Centre for the Performing Arts.
  • Awards: Four Tony Awards including Best Book of a Musical and five Drama Desk awards including Outstanding Musical and Outstanding Book of a Musical.
  • Synopsis: Based on the novel of the same name by E.L. Doctorow, Ragtime showcases the melting pot of early 20th century New York through the intertwining lives of three families, an African American family, a wealthy suburban family, and a Jewish immigrant family.
  • Other Notes: The original production had a record-setting budget of $10 million, which went towards its over-the-top production, including a real Model T car.

Corpus Christi

  • Opening Date: October 13th, 1998 in New York City at the Manhattan Theatre Club.
  • Synopsis: In McNally’s re-telling of the story of Jesus and the Apostles, the play follows Jesus as a gay man living in Corpus Christi, Texas.
  • Other Notes: The original opening of the play at Manhattan Theatre Club was cancelled due to protests, bomb threats, and death threats against McNally for his portrayal of Jesus as a gay man. The Manhattan Theatre Club, after receiving backlash from the theater community for censorship of the play, rescheduled the opening with heightened security.

The Full Monty

  • Opening Date: June 1st, 2000 in San Diego at the Old Globe Theatre.
  • Awards: Nine Tony Award nominations and one Drama Desk Award.
  • Synopsis: This musical comedy based on a film of the same name follows a group of unemployed men from Buffalo who form a strip act as a way to make money. This heartwarming story sees the men help each other through their fears and self-consciousness as they prepare for the show.
  • Other Notes: The play has been translated into several different languages as it has been produced in over twenty countries.

Dead Man Walking

  • Opening Date: October 7th, 2000 in San Francisco at the War Memorial Opera House.
  • Synopsis: This opera, for which McNally wrote the libretto, follows the friendship that forms between a death row inmate and a nun who serves as his spiritual advisor.
  • Other Notes: When McNally gave the libretto to composer Jake Heggie, he told him to only use portions he felt were necessary, and the rest could be discarded.


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