Lamentably, however, much of the acclaim that has and will accrue to Hamilton brands it as one of the first pieces of theatre to successfully incorporate hip-hop elements and sensibilities. That’s like someone thinking they’ve discovered rap music after hearing Eminem’s song “Stan” (coincidentally, and arguably, another white narrative). This is unfortunate; it not only ignores the 20-plus year legacy of hip-hop theatre in the U.S.—Idris Goodwin, Eisa Davis, Psalmayne 24, Hip-Hop Theatre Junction, Teo Castellanos, Will Power, Universes, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, etc. It also, more disturbingly, ignores LMM’s own In The Heights, a hip-hop-infused musical with a contemporary story about Latinos in a changing neighborhood that ran on Broadway for 3 years, won 4 Tonys and recouped its money after just 10 months. Yet we’re still in a cultural landscape where In The Heights and other hip-hop generation stories will never be celebrated to the extent that Hamilton will be, simply by virtue of who the show is about.
-April 23, 2015 – Excerpt from a piece by Danny Hoch for American Theatre. Read it all here.
Sony Music Masterworks and Broadway Records will release the original soundtrack recording of NBC’s upcoming television broadcast of The Wiz Live! The album will released via all digital service providers on December 11, with CDs hitting shelves December 18.
Shanice Williams leads the company of The Wiz Live! as Dorothy, alongside Queen Latifah (The Wiz), Mary J. Blige (Evillene), David Alan Grier (Cowardly Lion), Ne-Yo (Tin Man), Elijah Kelley (Scarecrow), Uzo Aduba (Glinda), Amber Riley (Addaperle), Common (Bouncer), and Stephanie Mills (Aunt Em).
The Wiz, a retelling of L. Frank Baum’s classic Wizard of Oz stories, opened on Broadway in 1975 and won seven Tonys including Best Musical and Best Score. A 1978 film version starred Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. It was last seen in New York in a New York City Center Encores! Summer Stars revival in 2009, with a cast led by Ashanti, Orlando Jones, and Tony winner LaChanze.
Tony winner Kenny Leon (A Raisin in the Sun) will stage the live production, which is based on Charlie Smalls and William F. Brown‘s Tony-winning stage version. Four-time Tony winner Harvey Fierstein (Kinky Boots) will contribute new material to Brown’s book. Craig Zadan and Neil Meron serve as executive producers, with Universal Television producing.
The live television broadcast of The Wiz serves as the precursor to a Broadway revival, coproduced by Cirque du Soleil’s new stage theatrical division, in the 2016-17 Broadway season. The telecast follows The Sound of Music and Peter Pan in NBC’s annual series of live musical presentations.
Composer and co-lyricist Neil Berg traces his interest in musicals to an unlikely origin: seeing Annie on Broadway as a boy. “While everyone else loved ‘Tomorrow,’ ” he remembers, “I loved ‘Maybe,’ her ‘I Want’ song.” In an “I Want” song, the protagonist expresses her dreams (e.g. “Annie wants parents”). It’s telling that the budding composer was interested in the song that sets the entire play in motion. Prologue spoke with Neil during rehearsals for THE 12, the rock musical he created with book writer/co-lyricist Robert Schenkkan.
“From the time I could play the piano, around 9 or 10 [I was writing musicals]. I was the youngest of three and rock ‘n roll was what I grew up listening to. From my brother I got The Beatles and Led Zeppelin and classic rock. My sister was into folk — Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Peter, Paul and Mary. And my mother and father were into classical, jazz and opera. Being the youngest, it all trickled down. When I came into my own, I was into the classic rock movement. My favorite albums were all those rock operas — The Who’s ‘Quadrophenia’ and Genesis’ ‘The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway,’ but my very favorite was probably Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall.'”- Neil Berg
To read the full interview by Douglas Langworthy and to see clips of the Denver production of THE 12, click here.
“Something visceral and vivid is taking place at the Denver Center, where the musical THE 12 is receiving its world premiere. Robert Schenkkan wrote the book and Neil Berg the music. The two share credit for the lyrics of this boldly compassionate work that imagines the disciples’ very human angst in the hours after their teacher was executed. Let there be long shadows. Let there be anguish and suspicion. Let there be deep fear and hard-wrought faith. So might go the promise of this beautifully performed work.”
Reviewer Lisa Kennedy gives THE 12, a musical explaining the anguish-filled moments after the Disciples learn what has happened to Jesus, a 4-star rating.
To read the full raving review, or to learn more about ticket information and the musical, click HERE.