Your Arms Too Short To Box

Based on the Book of Matthew, this soaring celebration in song and dance tells the story of Jesus, his apostles, and the women who inspired, followed and consoled him. From parables to miracles, from crucifixion to resurrection, it’s a tale of love, betrayal and redemption, told through rousing gospel music.

James Weldon Johnson used the phrase “Your arms too short to box with God” in his novel The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, and in the poem “The Prodigal Son.”

Director and writer Vinnette Carroll developed the musical from the Gospel of St. Matthew. Carroll directed over 50 productions during her 10 years with the Urban Arts Corps (UAC), including the much celebrated Don’t Bother Me I, I Can’t Cope, and the short-lived But Never Jam Today. Carroll has been credited with infusing Broadway musicals of the 1960s and 70s with a unique African American aesthetic.

Your Arms Too Short to Box With God was first performed by the Urban Arts Corps at the 1975 Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. The creative team included Alex Bradford (music and lyrics), Micki Grant, (additional lyrics), Talley Beaty (choreography), William Schroder (scenic and costume design), and Gilbert V. Hemsley, Jr. (lighting design).

The musical was further developed and was performed in Washington, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

Your Arms Too Short to Box With God transferred to Broadway, opening at the Lyceum Theatre on December 22, 1976.

ABC Records released an original cast album on vinyl in 1977.

In November 1977, the production transferred to the Eugene O’Neill Theatre where it played until January 1, 1978.

Your Arms Too Short to Box With God embarked on a national tour, traveling to 66 cities around the United States.

The musical re-opened on Broadway in 1980 with several cast members from the original production. It first played at the Ambassador Theatre before transferring to the Belasco Theatre. Jennifer-Yvette Holliday received rave reviews for her performance, and she was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in Musical. The second run on Broadway played for 149 performances.

The production continued to tour, and was re-worked when Patti LaBelle joined the cast. The musical returned to Broadway for a second time, opening at the Alvin Theatre (now the Neil Simon) in the fall of 1982. Patti LaBelle made her Broadway debut, along with another popular singer, Al Green. Green was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance. The third outing on Broadway ran for 69 performances.

More Details

Theatre: Lyceum Theatre
Producer: Frankie Hewitt and Shubert Organization
Book: Vinnette Carroll (Conceived from the book “Gospel of St. Matthew”)
Directed by: Vinnette Carroll
Music & Lyrics: Alex Bradford
Additional Music & Lyrics: Micki Grant
Choreography: Talley Beatty
Scenic & Costume Design: William Schroder
Lighting Design: Gilbert V. Hemsley, Jr.
Stage Manager: Robert Charles
Production Stage Manager: Haig Shepherd
Press Representative: Henry Luhrman Associates, Anne Obert Weinberg, and Terry M. Lilly

Featured Soloists:

Salome Bey

Clinton Derricks-Carroll

Sheila Ellis

Delores Hall

William-Keebler Hardy, Jr.

Héctor Jaime Mercado

Mabel Robinson

William Thomas, Jr.

Derek Williams



Adrian Bailey

Deborah Lynn Bridges

Sharon K. Brooks

Thelma Drayton (Swing Dancer)

Ralph Farrington  (Swing Dancer)

Thomas Jefferson Fouse Jr.

Michael Gray

Cardell Hall

The Bobby Hill

Edna M. Krider

Leone Washington

Marilynn Winbush



Thomas Michael Stevens (Bass)

Howard Grate (Drums)

Van J. Gibbs (Guitar)

Bob Fortunato (Horns)

Denzil A. Miller, Jr. (Keyboards)

Howard Hirsch (Percussion)

Pat Perrone (Reeds)

Album “Your Arms Too Short To Box With God” was nominated or Best Inspirational Performance. GRAMMY Awards (1977) 

Delores Hall won the 1977 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

Vinnette Carroll earned Tony nominations for Best Book of a Musical and Best Direction of a Musical.

Talley Beatty nominated for Best Choreography.