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Doris Day: My Secret Love

A fictitious evening with Doris Day where she shares songs, stories, regrets and loves.

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David Beck as Les Paul and Tiffan Borelli as Doris Day in a scene from Paul Adams’ “Doris Day: My Secret Love” at the 28th Street Theatre (Photo credit: Richard Rivera)


Christopher Caz, Critic

In celebration of Emerging Artists Theatre’s 40th anniversary, Paul Adams’ Doris Day: My Secret Love, premieres in repertory at the 28th Street Theatre through October 29th.

Described as a new “musical play,” Doris Day: My Secret Love showcases 14 of Doris Day’s most notable songs during a “Doris Day Retrospective” in 1985 where the radio and film star makes a special appearance benefitting her animal foundation (

Prompted by an array of photos that is projected on a screen, Doris Day (portrayed by Tiffan Borelli) tells anecdotes from her life and sings an occasional song. On stage with her is friend and bandleader Les Brown, played by actor and musician David Beck, who accompanies her on the piano and portrays roles of other people in flashbacks.

One of the earliest pundits of theatrical criticism, 19th century’s Alessandro Manzoni, laid out three basic questions which he felt should drive the evaluation of any piece of entertainment:

  1. What were the theater makers trying to do?
  2. How well did they do it?
  3. Was it worth it?

Tiffan Borelli as Doris Day in a scene from Paul Adams’ “Doris Day: My Secret Love” at the 28th Street Theatre (Photo credit: Richard Rivera)

To question #1 “What were the theater makers trying to do?” it seems to me that Paul Adams and those who have brought his script to life intend to sympathetically share with the audience the life, career, and marriages of famed radio and film star Doris Day, details of which were largely shielded from the public during the time she lived. The artists also want the theatergoers to enjoy listening to some of Day’s most beloved songs in the bargain.

Let’s jump to #3, “Was it worth it?” Being a man of a certain age, I’ve known of Doris Day all my life, and although I have heard many of her songs and seen some of her movies over the course of decades, her image is not emblazoned in my mind with the force and permanence of other singers and actresses of her time. After seeing Doris Day: My Secret Love, I have experienced a deepened appreciation for what it must have been like, not just for female performers like her but all women during her time, to live and work in a world run by men. People-pleasing and cajoling their men caused them to sacrifice much of a life which was their own to live. Before and after seeing this play, I also chose to watch a few of her films in a renewed appreciation for her talent, and to listen to many of her songs, enjoying her warm, expressive voice.

Although Day was pigeonholed as a lightweight in the acting arena (both by film choices she made as well as those made for her), her style and flair can be seen and heard distinctly, and I have a renewed appreciation for her. I can imagine how men like my father, a marine veteran of four wars who lived to 100, must have appreciated her songs and movies. I have no doubt that many if not most of the audience came away with these same positive impressions.

Back to #2, “How well did they do it?” Adam’s script cleverly contrives the opportunity for Day to reflect on her life by having her respond to photos being presented on the screen; it is even made clear that there would be some surprise photos in that lineup. There comes a discernible point, however, when it seems more of her reactions are surprises than not, and many times her shares are simply too raw and vulnerable for a celebrity to be disclosing to an audience of animal lovers who’ve merely convened to catch a glimpse of the star and to support her animal foundation. Ultimately, the premise which brings her onto the stage is unrealistic, but fortunately isn’t so distracting that it consistently impedes enjoyment.

David Beck as Les Paul and Tiffan Borelli as Doris Day in a scene from Paul Adams’ “Doris Day: My Secret Love” at the 28th Street Theatre (Photo credit: Richard Rivera)

Borelli as Doris Day is charming and appealing; her voice is not quite as strong as Day’s, but it is pretty and expressive, especially in quieter, more intimate moments. At the peak of some songs, where she’s expected to sing out fully and with passion, her voice doesn’t quite have the strength.

David Beck’s performance as Day’s longtime friend and musical director Les Brown gets the job done, although his portrayals in flashback scenes as other people in Day’s world are broadly played. Perhaps this is due to the superficial nature of the brief lines he’s been given to bring these characters to life. The scenes which contain the most opportunity for drama are when he and Day are interacting in flashbacks; some of those scenes, like when Day fights with her son after his accident or where she spars with her various husbands (all played by Brown), are disappointing. Although both actors are giving their all, they seem to be simply yelling at each other per the script, siloed in their own performances and not creating organic connections. Director Melissa Attebery might have achieved greater authenticity in those scenes by insisting the actors listen more closely to each other.

Borelli’s most compelling moments are in the final scene, which has her singing “My Buddy” to the one person who was perhaps Day’s truest but most secret love, someone who wasn’t one of her four husbands. It’s a jarring non sequitur of an ending for the play, but endearingly managed by Borelli.

Doris Day: My Secret Love (performed in repertory through October 29, 2023)

Emerging Artists Theatre

28th Street Theater, 15 W. 28th Street, in Manhattan

For information and tickets visit

Running time: one hour and 25 minutes with no intermission

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About Christopher "Caz" Caswell (60 Articles)
Christopher Caswell hails from Austin, Texas, but has called New York City his home for over three decades. Seasoned cabaret soloist, longest running member of the award-winning pops group "Uptown Express" and contributor to, he shares his view from the audience for
Contact: Website

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