I expect to hear much more about A Complicated Woman, which is  just closing on June 2, at Goodspeed’s Terris Theatre in Chester.

The show, which is still a work in progress, seems almost ready to take the next big step.

The woman of the title is John/Jean Kenley, whose career in the theater included performing, but more importantly, working for producer Lee Shubert and later starting The Kenley Players, producing over 500 summer shows, often featuring Broadway, film, and television stars.

John/Jean was apparently born intersex, meaning he had sexual characteristics of both male and female. His parents decided to at his birth to raise him as a male, feeling that he would have more opportunities. This was at the beginning of the 20th century. Until rather recently, babies born intersex were usually assigned a gender by parents or doctors. Today, some parents wait until the child can have a say in the decision.

In the off-season, John lived as Jean in Florida, gathering a coterie of transgendered friends.

Director/choreographer Jeff Calhoun has been the force behind this musical; he knew Kenley in his later years. Kenley shared his life story with Calhoun before his death at 103. (It is interesting to note that the 2009 New York Times obituary made no mention of Jean.)

Pluses abound with this show.

The creative team of Calhoun, Ianne Fields Stewart (book), Jonathan Brielle (music and lyrics), and Sam Salmond (additional lyrics) has created melodies that I can’t wait to hear again. They incorporate a variety of Broadway styles from love songs “Making a Home with You” and “In the Light of Day” to the 11 o’clock number, “I Exist.”

The cast is outstanding. Nora Brigid Monahan plays John/Jean with charm, grace, and a winning manner. On stage, she has an uncanny resemblance to Kenley. Veteran performer Klea Blackhurst plays his sister Myrtle, who is determined that John does not shake up the status quo in their Ohio community. Blackhurst makes full use of her voice in “Sunday Morning,” and “Some Things Are Better.”

The secondary plots involve Nina Mae, Jean’s friend and confidant, and Oscar, the teacher who falls in love and marries Nina Mae, knowing that she is transgendered. L. Morgan Lee brings dignity and strength to the role as well as a powerful voice.  Christian Brailsford is totally believable as Oscar, a man who realizes that love doesn’t fall into neat categories.

Another secondary plot involves John and his childhood friend, Carl; Carl is the opposite of Oscar and though he and John have feelings for each other, Carl cannot accept Jean nor sacrifice his desire for children. As Carl, Dashiell Gregory carefully develops the character, making it difficult for us to dislike him when he rejects John/Jean.

A Complicated Woman has elements that need rethinking. For one, almost the entire first act takes place in 1928; when act two begins, we are in the late 1950s-60s. The jump seems too extreme and not clearly defined. Could the initial setup be shorter? I’d hate to lose some of the terrific songs, but it might be necessary.

Act two needs the most work. Several issues are seemingly plopped in to create conflict; one concerns Nina Mae’s pressing John to have gender-affirming surgery (she had it). The second is a revelation about John’s performing career that causes Nina Mae to break off the friendship. It needed to be better set up. Until it was casually mentioned, I had no idea that John had continued to perform in addition to running the theater.

What do work are the final scenes with John and Myrtle, after he has retired, and the scene with Nina Mae. They are truly touching.

I look forward to watching this show move towards Broadway. It certainly is as well done as many shows I’ve seen on Broadway in the past few years.

Tickets are available at Goodspeed.org