The world premiere of the Broadway-aimed Hippest Trip — The Soul Train Musical officially opens at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater September 6 after beginning performances August 27. Playing the company's Toni Rembe Theater, the run will continue through October 8. Kamilah Forbes (Between the World and Me) is directing with Camille A. Brown (for colored girls...) choreographing.
The work, featuring a book by Dominique Morisseau (Ain't Too Proud), takes audiences back to Chicago in 1971 as DJ Don Cornelius transforms the pop culture landscape with his TV show bringing Black music, dance, and style into American living rooms.
Leading the cast are Angela Birchett as Delores Cornelius, Quentin Earl Darrington as Don Cornelius, Kayla Davion as Jody Watley, Sidney DuPont as Tony Cornelius, Cameron Hah as Cheryl Song, Amber Iman as Pam Brown, Richard James as Tyrone Proctor, Jaquez Jeffrey as Daniel, Alain “Hurrikane” Lauture as Don Campbellock, Mayte Natalio as Rosie Perez, and Charlene “Chi-Chi” Smith as Damita Jo.
Rounding out the company are Terence Archie, Jennifer Marie Frazier, McKenzie Frye, Justin Jorrell, Jahi Kearse, Alora Tonielle Martinez, Miki Michelle, Aché Richardson, Roukijah "NutellaK" Rooks, SeQuoiia, and Maleek Washington with swings Unissa Cruse, Amanda Le Nguyen, and Aya Travick-Best.
Along with Morriseau, Forbes, and Brown, the creative team also includes music supervisor, orchestrator, and arranger Kenny Seymour; scenic designer Jason Sherwood; costume designer Dede Ayite; lighting designer Jen Schriever; sound designer Jonathan Deans; projection designer Aaron Rhyne; wig designer Mia Neal, music curator Jimmy Keys; dance music arranger Zane Mark; music director Sean Kana; and dramaturg Joy Meads. Casting is by X Casting's Victor Vazquez.
On the producing team are Matthew Weaver, Jeffrey Tick, and Richard Gay, along with executive producers Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, Tony Cornelius (son to Don), Anthony E. Zuiker, Shawn Gee, and Devin Keudell. Nick Stern and J. Todd Harris are co-producing.
Soul Train was created in 1971 by Don Cornelius and predominantly featured performances by R&B, pop, soul, and hip-hop artists, in addition to the occasional funk, jazz, disco, and gospel artists. When the final episode of the show’s historic 35-year run aired in 2006, it was the longest-running, first-run, nationally syndicated program in television history.
The musical has been in development since at least 2019, when the work was expected to make a Broadway bow by 2021. That was, of course, before the spread of COVID-19 forced the shutdown of live theatre worldwide, slamming the breaks on many productions' development schedules.