PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 4-10: Holler If Ya Hear Me and The Curious Incident Coming to Broadway; Shakespeare and Glass Menagerie Recoup
By Robert Simonson
Perhaps having exhausted the pop and rock catalogues of the 1950s, '60s and '70s, jukebox musicals are now venturing into rap territory.
Holler If Ya Hear Me, a new musical based on the music of late rapper Tupac Shakur, will premiere on Broadway at the Palace Theatre May 26 under the direction of Kenny Leon, it was announced this week.
Shakur, whose albums included "2Pacalypse Now," "Me Against the World," "All Eyez on Me" and "Until the End of Time," died in 1996 as the result of a gang-related drive-by shooting in Las Vegas — a crime that remains unsolved to this day. He was 25 years old at the time. Prior to that time, he had had many brushes with the law, having served 11 months in prison on a sexual assault charge and barely escaping with his life after a 1994 New York attack left him with five bullets in his body.
The show will not tell the tale of Shakur's dramatic life, however, according to press notes, provide a "window into realities of the streets still relevant today."
The late rapper's mother, Afeni Shakur, along with Eric L. Gold, Chunsoo Shin and Jessica Green, are producing the non-biographical musical, which has a book by Todd Kreidler and will feature choreography by Wayne Cilento.
Holler If Ya Hear Me received a five-week workshop last summer in anticipation of the newly announced Broadway production. The musical will officially open June 19, making it one of the first shows of the 2014-15 season.
Interestingly, the Shakur estate is managed by Jeff Jampol, who also manages the Janis Joplin estate. Joplin is the subject of the current Broadway attraction A Night With Janis Joplin. In case you're wondering what other new jukebox musicals Broadway may see in the future, consider that Jampol also handles the Rick James estate. Superfreak: The Musical? Could happen.
The National Theatre's production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time — which received international attention when the ceiling of the Apollo Theatre, in which it was playing, collapsed and injured dozens of theatregoers mid-performance Dec. 19 — will not resume performances there on Jan. 12 as announced.
But there's some good news for the ill-fated show. It has also been confirmed that the play will open on Broadway in October at the Barrymore Theatre.
The Broadway League released its 16th annual demographics report, "The Demographics of the Broadway Audience 2012-2013," this week. The report is based on data gleaned from audience questionnaires distributed throughout the 2012-13 Broadway season.
This season attracted the highest percentage of theatregoers age 18 to 24 (14 percent, or 1.6 million admissions) in the history of this analysis. The average age of the Broadway attendee was 42.5 years old, which is slightly younger than previous seasons. Women again were the predominant attendees of the theatre (at 68 percent).
Word-of-mouth was the most influential factor in show selection and 41 percent of the respondents said they purchased their tickets online.
Broadway audiences are still primarily Caucasian (78 percent); however, there has been growth in diversity among Broadway theatregoers. Hispanic attendees account for eight percent (accounting for 880,000 admissions) this year.
What with the success of Sleep No More and Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812, environmental theatre is all the rage right now.
And now comes The New Brooklyn Theater's site-specific production of Edward Albee's seldom-seen short play The Death of Bessie Smith, which will play inside Interfaith Medical Center. Smith died in 1937 as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident in Mississippi. Albee's play is based on the now-discredited story that Smith died because she was refused treatment at a whites-only hospital.
But the production hopes to make a different, more contemporary point about medical care among minorities. Press notes pointed out that "Interfaith Medical Center, located in Bed-Stuy, is one of several hospitals throughout Brooklyn in danger of imminent closure. Despite the efforts of the Bed-Stuy community and its allies in labor and government rallying to its defense, Interfaith may have to shut its doors, literally any day now, if mediation in bankruptcy court is unsuccessful. The public is invited to consider whether that is how public health decisions affecting hundreds of thousands should be made."
The production is the first New York revival of the play in 46 years. Directed by Jonathan Solari, artistic director of New Brooklyn Theater, performances continue through Jan. 19.
Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams are moneymakers.
News came this week that The Shakespeare's Globe productions of Twelfth Night and Richard III have recouped their $3.1 million capitalization costs.
Also, the critically acclaimed Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie, which opened Sept. 26, 2013, starring Cherry Jones, has recouped its initial investment of $2.6 million.
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