Desperate Measures


Desperate Measures
Apply for:
  • Share This Show


When the dangerously handsome Johnny Blood’s life is on the line, he must put his fate into the hands of a colorful cast of characters including a mysterious sheriff, an eccentric priest, a narcissistic governor, a saloon girl gone good, and a nun out of the habit. Together, they face uncharted territory as laws are broken and hearts are won. Before the sun sets, will they be able to rise up and pull off the greatest act yet, or will Johnny be left hanging?

This witty and wild new musical comedy takes the Bard’s Measure for Measure and shakes things up with a toe tappin’ score by award-winning composer David Friedman. Featuring fresh and feisty book and lyrics by two-time Tony nominee Peter Kellogg, Desperate Measures is fully loaded with laughs. Saddle up and see why audiences and critics alike have branded Desperate Measures a grade ‘A’ musical!


Act I
It’s 1892, in a territory somewhere out West, and Johnny Blood, a handsome young cowboy, is set to hang for killing a man in a bar fight (“The Ballad of Johnny Blood”). Convinced the killing was self-defense, Sheriff Green rides out to a nearby Franciscan mission to persuade Johnny’s sister, Susanna, a novice nun, to plead with the governor to spare Johnny’s life. When she hesitates, he explains why she’s his only chance (“That’s Just How It Is”). Susanna finally agrees and meets with the governor to ask for mercy (“Look in Your Heart”). Alas, her plea succeeds all too well. The governor, normally a harsh and unforgiving man, is smitten with Susanna’s beauty and modesty. So he tells her he will free Johnny if she sleeps with him for one night. Since, as a novice nun, her chastity is important to her, Susanna refuses. Then she stops by the jail to tell Johnny what happened, thinking he will be as horrified as she. Johnny, while sympathetic, can’t help pointing out that chastity is an abstract notion whereas death is very real (“It’s Good To Be Alive”). Susanna doesn’t know what to do. The sheriff, overhearing her dilemma, suggests an alternate plan. Susanna will agree to the governor’s proposal and then, under cover of darkness, she will switch places with one of the saloon girls at the last minute. Susanna is skeptical, but the sheriff, Johnny, and a priest who happens to be in jail at the same time convince her (“It Doesn’t Hurt To Try”). So Susanna accompanies the sheriff to the saloon, where they meet with Bella (“It’s Getting Hot In Here”), the very girl Johnny killed a man over. Bella, who loves Johnny and wants to settle down with him, is more than happy to help by sleeping with the governor. Susanna instructs her on how to behave like a nun (“The Way That You Feel”). When she and Bella leave the room to check out Bella’s nun costume (which, apparently, she sometimes uses in her line of work), the sheriff reflects about the way Susanna is starting to make him feel (“Stop There”). In the last scene of Act I, we shift to the governor’s bedroom, where, after a series of close calls, the sheriff ’s plan seems like it just might work (“In The Dark”).

Act II
The next morning, Susanna shows up at the governor’s office to collect Johnny’s pardon, only to find that the plan of the previous night has backfired (“What A Night!”). It went so well, the governor has fallen hopelessly in love with her, and refuses to spare Johnny’s life unless she now marries him. After failing to persuade him he’s making a mistake (“About Last Night”), Susanna meets up with the sheriff and lambasts him for how miserably his plan has failed (“Stop There – Reprise”). Meanwhile, Bella shows up at Johnny’s cell to tell him what happened. She thinks he’ll be pleased. But Johnny, who had no idea she’d be the girl the sheriff would get to sleep with the governor, is furious. They trade barbs, arguing over whose love is greater (“Just for You”). The sheriff and Susanna arrive at the jail, having hatched a new plan. They will get the love-sick governor to sign a contract saying that if Sister Mary Jo, Susanna’s name as a nun, agrees to marry him, Johnny Blood will go free. Meanwhile Bella will accompany Susanna to the mission and take a vow as a novice nun with the same name. Then hidden by a wedding veil, she will again take Susanna’s place at the last minute. Johnny is totally against the plan, but he’s overruled, and the priest, still in the jail, is persuaded to perform the ceremony. After everyone else leaves, Susanna reflects about her budding feelings for the sheriff (“What Is This Feeling”). In the next scene, the sheriff gets the governor to sign the contract guaranteeing Johnny’s freedom (“What A Day!”). Next, we discover Susanna and Bella at the mission, while everyone else prepares for the wedding on different parts of the stage. They all reflect on the strange events of the last two days (“Life Takes You By Surprise”). Before heading off to the wedding, the sheriff decides to leave the key to the jail within easy reach of Johnny, so, in case his next plan backfires, Johnny won’t be hanged as scheduled. The sheriff suggests Johnny head to Mexico. Johnny is thrilled to be free again (“It’s Good to Be Alive – Reprise”). The scene changes to a room in the church where Susanna and Bella are getting ready in identical wedding gowns (“It’s a Beautiful Day”). During the song, the sheriff comes in to check on them, so they have some fun by pulling down their veils and having Susanna pretend to be Bella. This backfires too, when the sheriff confesses to Bella (thinking she’s Susanna) that he really likes her. The last scene is the church where, after a series of reversals— the priest is drunk, Johnny shows up and refuses to let Bella marry the governor, the governor realizes he’s been tricked and pulls out a gun, the sheriff shoots it out of his hand, and… well, let’s just say the governor is thwarted, Johnny gets to marry Bella, and the sheriff and Susanna look like they might end up together too (“Finale”).


A delight…such a hoot! Wonderful!

–The New York Times

A production of infinite jest and most excellent fancy, delicious buffoonery with infectious glee!



Johnny Blood – a hot-headed young cowboy, 21-25, tenor with a solid G, optional B.

Father Morse – Franciscan priest, Irish, 40s or 50s, baritone; also plays Big Swede in opening number and Bartender in saloon.

Sheriff Martin Green – mid-to-late 30s, baritone up to an F.

Susanna aka Sister Mary Jo – a novice nun and Johnny’s sister; 19-22, legit soprano.

Governor von Richterhenkenpflichtgetruber – German, 40s or 50s, baritone with low A.

Bella Rose – a saloon girl in love with Johnny, 23-28, high belter.

Casting Note: Cast can easily be supplemented with chorus of cowboys, saloon girls, government clerks, and nuns, if desired.

Time: Late 1800s
Place: Somewhere out West

  1. The Ballad of Johnny Blood
  2. The Ballad of Johnny Blood 
  3. That's Just How It Is
  4. Some Day They Will Thank Me
  5. Look In Your Heart
  6. Look In Your Heart (Reprise)
  7. It’s Good to Be Alive
  8. It Doesn't Hurt To Try
  9. It's Getting Hot In Here
  10. It's Getting Hot In Here/The Ballad of Johnny Blood (Reprise 2)
  11. The Way That You Feel
  12. Stop There
  13. In the Dark
  14. What A Night!
  15. About Last Night
  16. Stop There (Reprise)
  17. Just for You
  18. Just for You (Reprise)
  19. What is This Feeling?
  20. What a Day!
  21. Life Takes You by Surprise
  22. It’s Good to Be Alive (Reprise)
  23. It’s A Beautiful Day
  24. Finale
  25. Bows-Exit Music

Performance Royalties are based on theater particulars. Please fill out an application for a personalized quote.

Billing responsibilities, pertinent copyright information, and playwrights' biographies are available in the show rider that comes with your license agreement.

“A delight…such a hoot! Wonderful!” –The New York Times

“A production of infinite jest and most excellent fancy, delicious buffoonery with infectious glee!” –TheaterMania

“Hysterically, rip-snortingly, knee-slappingly funny!” –NY CityView

“I laughed until I cried! I promise you will love this hilarious and clever musical.”Kathie Lee Gifford, Today

“Friedman has crafted a score that harks back to the old days, filled with cheerful melodies that will very likely get stuck in your head. David Hancock Turner's orchestrations, utilizing instruments like the mandolin and banjo, add to the old-time Wild West vibe that the production cultivates so well. Kellogg provides clever, tongue-in-cheek lyrics and a script that is written almost entirely in iambic pentameter. Desperate Measures is a production of infinite jest and most excellent fancy. As Shakespeare might say, Ye haw.” –TheaterMania

“See it before tickets become scarce! This team delivers a show that should enjoy a long life in regional productions.”–Huffpost

"A good old-fashioned musical comedy! Desperate Measures is a happy surprise of a show filled with enjoyable songs — A solid example of musical comedies that once reigned supreme." –HuffPost

“The most acclaimed Off-Broadway musical of the season!” –TheaterMania

“Peter Kellogg and David Friedman’s rootin’-tootin’-shootin’-prosecutin’-prostitutin’ Wild West musical ropes you in with peppy songs and an engaging cast of six sharpshooters. Recommended!”—Time Out New York

“A delicious concoction. The funniest, most tuneful, non-stop, slam-bang best musical of the season!” Peter Filichia, Broadway Select

“The creators rocket the musical into the heavens as a multi-genre work that incorporates farce, comedic satire, poetry, music and romance. Added to this are lavish helpings of LOL humor and generous dollops of word crafted grace. The show provides one lovable, riotous time!” –Theater Pizzazz

Desperate Measures is a rootin’, tootin’, scootin’, hootin’ Wild West musical comedy!" —New York Stage Review

“A kick-ass new tuner, cleverly written in rhyming couplets that flow easily into song. It’s flat-out musical comedy fun!” –BroadwayWorld.com

“Desperate Measures turns one of Shakespeare's "problem play's" Measure Of Measure, into a madcap musical melodrama that will leave you laughing. Gunslingers to Governors, Sheriff's to Saloon Girls, and Priests to Postulants, this musical has a variety of characters up to zany hijinks for you to enjoy.” – Broadwayworld San Diego (North Coast Rep Production)

“Desperate Measures is a fun and frothy musical that will make you laugh and leave you humming.” – Broadwayworld San Diego (North Coast Rep Production)

“Show co-writers Peter Kellogg and David Friedman play with Shakespearean style and conventions in a clever, funny and contemporary way, and the plot and characters have the exaggerated silliness of a Western melodrama.” – San Diego Union Tribune (North Coast Rep Production)

“A witty, wild musical comedy that takes Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure and shakes it up.” – Rancho Santa Fe Review (North Coast Rep Production)

Materials: Digital Materials are provided via email as downloadable PDF files for you to print in-house. All materials are yours to keep! No deposits, no returns.

Required production materials for Desperate Measures:

  • Cast Scripts
  • Vocal Books
  • Director's Script
  • Stage Manager's Script
  • Orchestrations
  • Logo Pack
  • Piano/Vocal Score


  • Piano/Conductor Score (Acoustic Piano, E Major Diatonic Harmonica)
  • Guitar (Acoustic Guitar, Mandolin, Banjo, Electric Guitar)
  • Double Bass
  • Violin (Violin, Mandolin)

Official Logo Pack Now Included!

To help you promote your show, Stage Rights now includes a logo pack with your license. The logo pack includes high-resolution versions (both color and black and white) of our show logo. The logo is the portion of the artwork with the show's title. The surrounding artwork is also available for an additional fee.