Having Only Murders in the Building withdrawals this week? So are we. Yesterday was the first Tuesday in the two-and-a-half months that we didn't have a new episode of the Hulu mystery series to watch, the finale having aired October 3. Assuming you're all caught up, let's dig into a few of our favorite theatre references in this Broadway-centric season. (There may be spoilers!)
First, a quick primer.
Season 1 of Only Murders in the Building premiered in August 2021. A Hulu Original series, the comedy stars Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez as neighbors who start a podcast as they try to solve the murder of a resident in their Upper West Side apartment building The Arconia. The title stems from a comment they make when crafting their podcast. They aren't really a true-crime podcast; they're just solving only murders in the building. Luckily for fans, just as they solve the first murder in the finale episode of Season 1, another body is discovered. Season 2 premiered June 2022.
The success of the podcast led to a revival of the dormant careers of actor Charles-Hayden Savage (Martin) and Broadway director Oliver Putnam (Short). Savage begins acting again, reprising his '80s television detective role in a reboot, and Putnam is tapped to revive the play Death Rattle on Broadway, in which Savage will also star. Mabel (Gomez) is bestie to both and there on opening night of the play in the Season 2 finale, when the star actor Ben Glenroy collapses on stage.
And that left us all set for a Season 3 murder. (But on a Broadway stage and not in the building? We'll get to that.) Only Murders in the Building, with its New York City filming location, has always featured Broadway actors in the cast. But with the Season 3 plot action officially moving onto the boards, there are even more Broadway references to track.
Let's get into it.
Episode 1 opens in flashback in 1962 at the fictional Goosebury Theater on Broadway, with Broadway performer Rosharra Francis (Beautiful The Carole King Musical) as a young Diahann Carroll singing “The Sweetest Sounds” in the Richard Rodgers musical No Strings. The musical opened March 15 of that year and was somewhat revolutionary in its casting, with Richard Kiley starring opposite Carroll as a young couple on a romantic adventure in Europe.
The Goosebury also becomes the present-day theatre in which Oliver is staging his new play Death Rattle. Scenes at the Goosebury were filmed at uptown Manhattan’s United Palace, which, with the help of Lin-Manuel Miranda, has received a renaissance in the last few years, hosting the official opening screening for his movie musical In the Heights and the 2023 Tony Awards ceremony. It first opened in 1930 and seats more than 3,000 people. The ornate red and gold interior make it a perfect fit for a luxe opening night carpet.
We also meet most of the season's main players in the first episode, including screen legend Meryl Streep as struggling actor Loretta Durkin. (Streep can do anything...even convince us no one will cast her.) Putnam does, though, and she ends up a suspect at one point. Streep began her career on the New York stage and garnered one Tony nomination in 1976 for A Memory of Two Mondays / 27 Wagons Full of Cotton before beginning her film career in 1977 and never again returning to Broadway. (Rude.)
At the play's first read-through, we (again) meet murder victim Ben Glenroy, played by Paul Rudd. (As it turns out, he didn't really die on stage. He's revived and back at The Arconia for the opening night party, where he is pushed and falls to his death in an elevator shaft. See...in the building.) Though known for his television and film career, Rudd has also made a few Broadway appearances, including Three Days of Rain with Julia Roberts and Bradley Cooper in 2006, and in Grace with Michael Shannon and Ed Asner in 2012.
Every Broadway show needs a powerhouse producer, and the fictional Death Rattle has Donna and Clifford DeMeo. Three-time Tony nominee Linda Emond and Wesley Taylor play the mother-son team (who at times seem a little too close for comfort). The cast of Death Rattle also includes Ashley Park (a Tony nominee for her performance in Mean Girls), Gerald Caesar (Tina, Choir Boy), Don Darryl Rivera (an Aladdin Iago alum), and Jason Veasey (A Strange Loop). Allison Guinn (On the Town, Hair) is on board as stage manager K.T. And that casting director in the first episode is Lisa Kron, who brings personal experience from both sides of the casting table. She wrote and starred in the 2006 play Well, and she won Tonys for her book and lyrics for the musical Fun Home.
At the read-through, we also meet Ben Glenroy's manager and brother Dickie, played by Tony nominee Jeremy Shamos. He was last seen on Broadway in the play Meteor Showers, written by Steve Martin. (The play also starred Amy Schumer in her Broadway debut; she appeared as herself on Only Murders in the Building in Season 2.)
As an action movie star, Glenroy also brings a film crew along to document his first forray in the theatre. His cameraman is played by Jesse Williams, who after years of television, made his Broadway debut leading the 2022 revival of Take Me Out.
Though the 42nd Street Spaces rehearsal studio is fictional, it's very reminiscent of several midtown studios. What's not fictional in that read-through scene, though, is the plate of Schmackary's Cookies. Located on 45th Street at Ninth Avenue, Schmackary's, owned by Zachary Schmahl, frequently collaborates with Broadway shows to create special cookies for the menu, and has often partnered with celebs and show to fundraise for Broadway Cares. (Who knew that Chekhov's gun would be a cookie?!)
Throughout the series, we see a few more Broadway faces. Olivier winner and Tony nominee Noma Dumezweni plays Maxine Spear, a theatre critic who was planning to pan Death Rattle. Since the show never officially opened due to Ben Glenroy's death, the review was never published. It was, however, discovered in a paper shredder and became a motive for Glenroy's murder. (Only Murders in the Building producers gave a copy to Playbill, though! Read it in the link below.)
With Death Rattle closing, Putnam decides to go back to his roots and adapt it into a big Broadway musical: Death Rattle Dazzle. During the course of the series, the cast is rehearsing the new musical while still trying to solve Glenroy's murder. Enter Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The Tony-winning Dear Evan Hansen songwriting team were brought on to compose the score for the fictional musical, but they didn't want to do it alone, so they invited even more Broadway composers onto the series.
Martin's patter song "Which of the Pickwick Triplets Did It?" was written by Some Like It Hot's Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and Streep's 11 o'clock number was written by A Strange Loop's Pulitzer and Tony-winning writer Michael R. Jackson. Pop star and Waitress composer and creator Sara Bareilles also wrote a duet for Streep and Park, "Look to the Light."
Two of our favorite guest appearances come in episode 7. Oliver and Charles aren't getting along, so Charles quits the show forcing Oliver to hold replacement auditions. Tony winner Matthew Broderick—playing himself—gets the job. Turns out he's somewhat of an annoyance to work with, prompting Oliver to Facetime The Producers writer Mel Brooks to ask if Broderick is always like this:
"Oh my God! You didn't tell him in any way you were open to his ideas, did you?" asks Brooks.
Putnam answers: "Well I might have told him he could—"
"Oh Oliver," says Brooks. "You're fucked!"
Broderick is a two-time Tony winner. He lost his third nomination for Best Actor in a Musical to Nathan Lane, his co-star in The Producers. Brooks was awarded Tonys for the book and score for the musical, as well as a Best Musical as a producer for it. Broderick was last on stage opposite his wife Sarah Jessica Parker in Plaza Suite.
Actually, our favorite cameo was the No Strings Playbill and Playbill binder in episode 8. That was a fun surprise for us! (Read all about our theory why Death Rattle the play didn't use a Playbill in the link below.)
Now, we aren't going to spoil who did actually murder Ben Glenroy, or exactly how those cookies came into play.
Only Murders in the Buildling was recently renewed for a fourth season, and it looks like the investigation will center on the murder of Sazz Pataki, Charles' good friend and Hollywood stunt double. Sazz had been a recurring character, played by Jane Lynch, appearing in all three seasons of the show. Lynch, known for her role as Sue Sylvester on Glee, has appeared twice on Broadway, as Miss Hannigan in 2012's Annie and as Mrs. Brice in 2022's Funny Girl (though not opposite her Glee co-star Lea Michele).
We'd also be remiss to not point out two-time Tony winner Andrea Martin (Pippin, Young Frankenstein). Also a recurring character, she worked with Sazz and Charles as a television makeup artist. In Season 3, she and Charles are engaged for a bit, and a missing lipstick causes him to accuse her of Glenroy's murder. We, of course, love her and hope she'll return for the fourth season.
It's a running joke in the series that Sazz has recently been stunt doubling in L.A. for Scott Bakula, to which Charles scoffs. It was just announced that Bakula will soon be returning to the Broadway stage in world premiere production of Jason Robert Brown's The Connector at MCC. Since he'll be in New York anyway maybe Only Murders in the Building can get him on set for Season 4!