Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

The Tattooed Lady
Philadelphia Theatre Company
Review by Rebecca Rendell

Also see Rebecca's reviews of Les Misérables and Wolf Play

Katie Thompson, Grace Slear, Jessie Shelton,
Kim Blanck, Maya Lagerstam, Jackie Hoffman,
Sophia Ramos and Anastacia McCleskey

Photo by Johanna Austin,
The Philadelphia Theatre Company is making its mark with the world premiere of The Tattooed Lady at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre.

The Tattooed Lady is a new musical by Erin Courtney (book) and Max Vernon (book, music, lyrics, and orchestrations), developed and directed by Ellie Heyman. Upbeat, inspiring, and just a bit raucous, this rock and roll homage to all of the tattooed ladies is a wild ride anyone can enjoy. The original score includes several songs that are exuberant and excellent. The story–which is actually composed of several shorter stories–is engaging and loads of fun. The energetic cast is a joy to watch and Jackie Hoffman's spirited performance as Ida Gibson is phenomenal–I just wish there was more of it.

Ida Gibson (Hoffman) is a crotchety old lady who spends her time yelling at kids not to ride on the sidewalk, protesting the mildly scandalizing art displayed at her local library, and keeping a close eye on her teenage granddaughter (Maya Lagerstam). The pair seem quite happy in their acrimony until a retired sideshow emcee (Anthony Lawton) shows up with a huge trunk and an interesting story. The story is that Ida used to make her living as the tattooed lady and the huge trunk contains ghosts of famous tattooed women (Kim Blanck, Anastacia McCleskey, Sophia Ramos, Jessie Shelton, Grace Slear, and Katie Thompson), Ida's younger self included (Ashley Pérez Flanagan).

The show starts off a little too campy and initially feels awkward, but once the sultry specters roll onto the scene things start to fall into place. Erin Courtney blends interesting historical facts and figures in the story, with modern conflicts and sensibilities. Many of Max Vernon's songs are boisterous and captivating, although a few of the ensemble numbers are not particularly memorable. Mayte Natalio's choreography is effervescent, but there are problems with Lex Liang's scenic design, mostly because it can sometimes feel like the actors are being constrained by the overly large set.

While there is still some room for improvement, The Tattooed Lady brings real magic to the stage. It is a thrill to have such an entertaining new musical making its debut right here in Philly.

The Tattooed Lady runs through November 20, 2022, at Philadelphia Theatre Company, Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 South Broad Street, Philadelphia PA. For tickets and information, please visit, call 215-985-0420, or visit the box office.

Jackie Hoffman: Ida Gibson
Maya Lagerstam: Joy Gibson
Ashley Pérez Flanagan: Imagena Gibson
Katie Thompson: Nora Hildebrandt
Anthony Lawton: Bob Baxter
Kim Blanck: Maud Wagner
Jessie Shelton: La Belle Irene
Anastacia McCleskey: Trixie Richardson
Grace Slear: Lady Viola
Sophia Ramos: Jean Carroll

Ellie Heyman: Director and Co-Creator
Mayte Natalio: Choreographer
Rodney Bush: Music Director
Lex Liang: Scenic and Costume Designer
Mary Ellen Stebbins: Lighting Designer
Nevin Steinberg: Sound Designer
Jason Hayes: Wig and Hair Designer
Trey Lyford: Magic Consultant
Chelsea Pace: Intimacy Coordinator