Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

IMPOSSIBLE BUT TRUE, Musical based on Rip Van Winkle, plays Taverns in Brooklyn and Manhattan


Brooklyn Tavern Theater, led by composer/lyricist/writer Dan Furman, is presenting "Impossible but True," a "tavern musical" inspired by Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle story, through October 29 at Franklin 820 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn and in Manhattan at Uncle Charlie's, 139 East 45th Street. This immersive musical aims to pioneer a new genre of no-frills productions in hospitable places that are underused for performances. Cailín Heffernan directs.

The musical, written and composed by Furman with additional lyrics by Mary-Liz McNamara, tells how a small town in the Catskills is changed by the American Revolution, loosely based on Washington Irving's well-known tale. Its 20 songs lie firmly in the genre of classical musical theater: complex but tuneful, a kind of "folksy Sundheim." It is designed for Franklin 820 (, a neighborhoody Brooklyn tavern with high ceilings in which keyboard accompaniment is performed on a balcony over the bar. There is a "Poor Theater" aesthetic, with minimal costumes and props. The audience shares the space with the actors and sometimes participates in small ways. Food and drink are available. The action takes place in the middle of the bar, so it is staged in-the-round. The playing schedule, at this point, is "slow days" for taverns: Mondays and Tuesdays. This is the second year that the musical is mounted in October--a warm tavern event as the Fall days are cooling. Admission is free and premium seating is available for $15; food is optional.

Reviewing an earlier production of this musical in May, 2018 at Franklin 820, blog reviewer Anthony Picccione wrote, "I have to admit that I'm quite relieved that this show took place in such a relaxed and comfortable setting, and that the show itself was as fun and entertaining as it was. From the second I walked in, I had a feeling that I'd be in for a good time, and I was proven right." Reviewer Ken Coughlin (Outerstage) praised its "thoroughly delightful cast" for its great singers' chops and characterized it as "Impossible but...good!"

The troupe will debut another musical, "Ybor City" by Dan Furman and Anita Gonzalez, February 3-25, 2020 and will bring back "Impossible but True" next fall, October 5-27, 2020, both at Franklin 820.

Furman originally drafter the musical ten years ago and it premiered in 2011 at Midtown International Theatre Festival. More recently, Furman adapted the piece to be performed in a tavern, evoking Rip Van Winkle's fondness for drink and providing a natural environment for several scenes which are set in an early American taproom. Among the play's 20 songs is one in favor of a beverage called flip, a confection that was originally made with beer, rum, eggs and molasses and stirred with a hot poker. A modern version is sold at intermission.

Brooklyn Tavern Theater serves theater in places where you wouldn't expect it. Its performances are in taverns and institutions that are open to the public, but only (at this point) on slow days for the drinking crowd--Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays. Admission is free to these Equity Showcase productions. While the troupe passes the hat (like its "cousin" in Poor Theater, Shakespeare in the Parking Lot), it also depends on grants and contributions for part of its budget. Donations are accepted online through Brooklyn Arts Council at

Book, music and lyrics are by Dan Furman. Additional lyrics are by Mary-Liz McNamara. Director is Cailín Heffernan. Musical director is Dan Furman. Stage Manager is Elizabeth Strauss.

The cast is John Calabrese, Jerome Harmann-Hardeman, Rob Langeder (as Rip Van Winkle), Roger Lipson, Therin Morrisey, Belén Moyano, Carlie Priso, Len Rella and Maya Thomas.

Dan Furman (writer, lyricist, composer) hails from Old Hickory, Tennessee (just outside Nashville). He began playing piano and composing music at an early age and went on to study composition and jazz piano at Oberlin Conservatory. After moving to New York in 2003 to play jazz, he began writing for music theater as well. He spent four years in the BMI Lehman Engels Musical Theater Workshop and his musical, "RIP!" (now named "Impossible But True"), was featured in the 2011 Midtown International Theatre Festival.

Furman wrote the theme song for the Big Apple Circus 2010-11 show, "Dance On!" His collaboration with bookwriter Anita Gonzalez, "Ybor City," was given a staged reading at the Lee Strasberg Institute in Manhattan in the summer of 2015, a studio production at the University of Michigan in early 2017 and was workshopped in Manhattan in early 2018. He is currently writing book, music and lyrics for "The Proust Virus," a musical about video game characters who come to life. He also contributed music and lyrics to the 2019 premiere of Arnold Schulman's "Sign in the Six O'Clock Sky." He lives in Brooklyn and is Director of Brooklyn Tavern Theater. He often music directs cabaret shows in Manhattan and can be heard playing jazz at Cleopatra's Needle.

Director Cailín Heffernan is Associate ArtisticDirector of Boomerang Theatre Company, a Resident Director of National Schoolhouse, a Creative Artist with DionysusFest in Athens, Greece and Artistic Advisor to New Light Theatre Company. She most recently directed the highly regarded solo show, "Places," written by and starring Romy Nordlinger at Dixon Place, The Player's Club (produced by White Horse Theatre Company), HERE Arts in 2019 (produced by Pat Addiss with Laura Fay Lewis) and at the Kennedy Center's Page to Stage Festival (presented by Tonic Theatre in conjunction with Pat Addiss). She directed Kathleen Chalfant in Rose Leiman Goldemberg's "Letters Home" for the Lincoln Center Archives.

Upcoming performances are: October 21, 22 and 28 from 7:00 - 9:30 PM at Franklin 820, 820 Franklin Ave., Brooklyn and October 29 from 6:00 to 8:30 PM at Uncle Charlie's, 139 East 45th Street, Manhattan. Admission is free and food and drink are available. Premium seating is $15, available for pre-sale at

Related Articles View More Brooklyn Stories

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes & More

More Hot Stories For You