Broadway these days, huh? Not just Broadway. If you, gentle reader, scan your world for news of theatre, you’ll find all sorts of interesting tidbits. Ron Weasley, er, Rupert Grint will be making his theatrical debut in London’s West End, playing in Butterworth’s Mojo. A play about Chelsea Manning has been up at the National Theatre Wales, and has won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Shakespeare’s Richard III is being performed in a New York parking lot which is just too perfect. And there’s talk of mounting a musical production of Amelie on Broadway, but with no accordion in its score (gasp)!
But, while we’re on the subject of music and musicals, I’d like to go ahead and point out that… you know what? I’ll just say it: there’s going to be a Tupac Musical.
If you don’t know, Tupac Shakur was one of the greatest rappers of all time. He came to prominence in the nineties and died tragically in 1996. The play is being spearheaded by Kenny Leon, who is one of America’s most prolific and successful African-American theatre directors. Leon has directed A Raisin in The Sun both on stage and in film and will mount it again in the spring, when it will prominently feature one Denzel Washington. He’s directed August Wilson’s Fences, also starring Mr. Washington, as well as Radio Golf and Gem of the Ocean, not to mention Aida. Clearly he’s got the chops to work on a musical with a challenging concept, and this isn’t the first hip-hop musical. Not by a long shot:
I’m excited. I’m a big fan of much of Tupac’s music, and the premise is interesting. Holler If Ya Hear Me, produced by Tupac’s mother, Afeni Shakur, will tell an “original story about two childhood friends in a fictional Midwestern industrial city as they struggle to meet their dreams in the face of tough circumstances.” Leon has been quoted saying that Tupac was a “prophet,” that he “was just trying to talk about life and say something about the country and being an American and raising a family here.” His more enlightened, more meaningful music described much of the experience of urban black life and in that way presaged more modern circumstances. For example:
As opposed to his other music, which was, for its part, foundational to much of the violent gangster rap that would come after him. Like:
I don’t have any other hints other than that apparently Wayne Cilento, who has choreographed How to Succeed, Wicked, and Aida, will be choreographing the piece. So, there’s already topflight talent involved, though there’s been no casting as of yet. If I hear any more big news about the state of Tupac theatre, I’ll clue you guys in. Until then, might I recommend checking out the Greatest Hits double disc?