‘Indecent’ Earns Broadway Accolades for Malibu Producer

Sharleen Cooper Cohen

A Malibu woman is having a big success on the Great White Way as a producer.  Sharleen Cooper Cohen’s latest work as a co-producer of the sleeper Broadway hit “Indecent” is just the latest in a string of “bringing subjects that are dear to me and dear to people” to the stage, she described. After a successful run, “Indecent” closes this week.

The play, which won two Tony Awards this year, best director for Rebecca Taichman and best lighting design for Christopher Akerlind is based on a true story—-the first lesbian kiss on a Broadway stage—and the controversy it stirred at the time. But even today, the play-within-a-play brings up topics as relevant now as they were in the time in which “Indecent” is set—the early 20th century when anti-Semitism and xenophobia gripped Europe and even the United States.

Cooper Cohen, a Malibuite for most of her adult life, said going to see previews of “Indecent” in New York evoked a strong emotional reaction—and stirred her to act.

“It hit me so profoundly. It had such an emotional impact and I thought it was so beautifully done that I wanted to be a part of it,” Cooper Cohen described. “I approached the producers and said I would like to be a co-producer, and they were just about to close the investment package when I slipped in. I just couldn’t be prouder of any show as wonderful as this, except that I also am a producer on ‘An American in Paris’ that I also adore and think is astounding.”

The emotionally and visually stunning “Indecent” received a second life after the Tonys. It was originally set to close June 25.

“Most of the plays on Broadway do not break even; they don’t make a lot of money,” 

Cooper Cohen explained. “The musicals do, but the plays struggle. The four plays that were nominated for best play were struggling financially. After the Tonys, when we didn’t win best play, we announced closing, and we had such a resurgence in the audience enthusiasm from people who had planned to see it, decided to see it quickly before it closed the next week and there was such a resurgence that the lead producers decided to extend it to Aug. 6.” But it will have a very big afterlife, according to Cooper Cohen.  “Indecent” has been licensed next at the renowned Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and she said she’s confident it will be staged at other theaters across the country. There is also talk to have the play performed and streamed live to television or computer.  


Another of Cooper Cohen’s Broadway successes is “An American in Paris,” the musical play based on the Academy Award winning film of the same name. The show is currently touring the U.S., but is also playing in the West End at the Dominion Theatre in London.  

“It’s getting fabulous reviews—the best reviews you could hope for and astounding audience response. So we do have a hit in London,” according to Cooper Cohen. The show won four Tonys including best actor, best choreography, best direction and best set design in 2015.


The longtime Malibu resident has been writing and producing her own work as well.

Her first show, “Sheba,” was produced by the Jewish Repertory Theater at Studio 91.  

“That was my first musical.  I wrote the lyrics and the book and co-produced it,” Cooper Cohen recalled. “It was the largest show they had ever done. I’ve been writing and producing for the theater ever since.” 

She also wrote and produced “Stormy Weather,” about entertainer and singer Lena Horne (starring Leslie Uggams), which appeared at the Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia and at the Pasadena Playhouse, where it broke all house records up to that point in 2009. 

Another project Cooper Cohen has brought to the stage as co-writer and producer is “An Officer and a Gentleman” a musical based on the hit movie. Staged in Sydney, Australia, in 2002, the show will be produced in the United Kingdom in March. 

Speaking about her passion for “Indecent” and the original play that inspired it, Cooper Cohen remarked, “The play was written in 1907 about a hypocritical man.  Back then it was not popular with pro-religious people.  

“The show proves that it endured, even though it was controversial and the cast, when it went to Broadway, was arrested for indecency—that’s the story of this show,” she said. “It endures to this day and it’s moving on and garnering huge, huge accolades.”

Broadway may call to Cooper Cohen, but home speaks louder. 

“I’m really ensconced in the city of Malibu and love it dearly,” she said.


“Indecent” is playing at the Cort Theatre 138 West 48th Street, closing Aug. 6.