Legendary “naughty” comedy

1812 Productions and Jennifer Childs present Broads

2 minute read
Scallen, Finister, and Robbins pose backstage, standing on a spiral staircase.
MB Scallen, Melanye Finister, and Rebecca Robbins star in the hit cabaret. (Photo by Mark Gavin.)

For 1812 Productions, the historical contributions of women to comedy have been a perennial fascination. From Always a Lady to It’s My Party: The Women and Comedy Project, the company has a track record of restaging and revitalizing classic female comedic voices. Now with Broads, they aim to continue this grand tradition. Originally staged in 2019, Broads returns to the Philadelphia stage to celebrate the bawdiest, boldest, and funniest ladies of the 1920s through the 1960s.

Curated for the legacies

Curated and directed by Jennifer Childs, Broads is a cabaret that features both original and classic material, all in the name of showcasing the great women who practiced comedy in the early 20th century. Some names will be familiar to most theatre-goers including Mae West, Moms Mabley, and Sophie Tucker. Others are lesser known, but no less integral to the history of women in comedy, all paving the path for today’s legion of female entertainers.

“These ‘naughty’ women were unapologetically themselves. They refused to play by anyone else’s rules and in doing so created material and personas that became iconic,” says Childs. “They had incredible tenacity and determination as they fearlessly pioneered the entertainment industry. And they were really, really funny. This show honors their legacy.”

Broads alumna Mary Elizabeth “MB” Scallen returns following her acclaimed performance in the 2019 production as one of the three cabaret emcees. Joining her are Broadway alumna Rebecca Robbins (Broadway’s The Phantom of the Opera) and Barrymore Award winner Melanye Finister (People’s Light’s Skeleton Crew).

In restaging Broads four years later, the material only continues to resonate, both for its historic contribution to the art form and for its impact on the comedy landscape of today. “Something that has made this process really special, given the new women's movement that America is embarking on, is listening to material from performers like Sophie Tucker, Belle Barth, or Fanny Brice, and hearing the connections between their styles and comedians like Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, or Tiffany Haddish,” says Childs. “There are these amazing comedy threads that are as hysterical today as they were 70 years ago. As somebody once said, 'Everyone has a little Mae West in them.’”

What, When, Where

Broads. Curated and directed by Jennifer Childs. $35-$45. Through February 26, 2023, at Plays & Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey Place, Philadelphia, PA. (215) 592-9560 or 1812productions.org.


Mask-wearing is optional for performances of Broads except for the following where masks will be required: January 26 at 7pm, January 29 at 2pm, February 2 at 7pm, February 5 at 2pm, February 9 at 7pm, February 16 at 7pm, February 19 at 2pm, and February 23 at 7pm.

The main theater of Plays & Players Theatre is wheelchair-accessible, but the building does not have wheelchair-accessible restrooms.

Sign up for our newsletter

All of the week's new articles, all in one place. Sign up for the free weekly BSR newsletters, and don't miss a conversation.

Join the Conversation