Alicia Keys, a popular singer, has spent over twelve years developing a new musical. The production, titled “Hell’s Kitchen,” is currently being showcased at the Public Theater in New York. As she approached the entrance, Keys expressed her excitement, stating that this has been her dream for years and she is finally seeing it come to fruition.
“Why did it take so long?” she chuckled. “As they say, good things come to those who wait! I’ve been working on this since before my first son was born, and now he’s 13 years old.”
Sanneh inquired if he had ever encountered a mother who was not employed on this program.
The official HD video for “Fallin'” by Alicia Keys.aliciakeysVEVO on YouTube
The album “Hell’s Kitchen” features many of her top songs, as well as four new tracks. Some of her most popular songs have been given a new arrangement or context. For instance, the tune “Teenage Love Affair” takes on a slightly different meaning in the show.
Keys claims she has been heavily involved in all aspects of the project, even in selecting the actress to portray the character inspired by her. According to her, it is impossible to accurately portray a New York City native without understanding the intricacies of the city. She admits to causing some difficulties for casting agents, jokingly referring to herself as a major “pain in the ass.”
Twenty-one-year-old Maleah Joi Moon is making her professional theater debut as Ali.
Keys is also observant of the audience members, particularly her mother who recently viewed the performance.
“Can we display it on the marquee? What was her response?” inquired Sanneh.
“Mom absolutely adores it! Can we release it?” she chuckled.
“Unable to broadcast on television, but acceptable for display on the marquee!”
Ben Brantley, a previous theater critic for the New York Times, has viewed snippets of “Hell’s Kitchen.” However, as the show is still in the preview stage, he was not able to obtain a ticket from the theater. Sanneh inquired, “What was your initial response when you learned that Alicia Keys, the star, was collaborating on a musical inspired by her personal experiences?”
Brantley responded, “Her voice has definitely been a constant presence in my life. It’s a strong selling point and a major attraction.”
Theater productions that feature popular songs are known as jukebox musicals. This term was used by Brantley, who initially used it with disdain or skepticism because he viewed it as an easy and unoriginal way to create a show.
The fact that “Hell’s Kitchen” changes up some of Keys’ most familiar songs, to better fit the plot, might help de-jukebox-ify the show. “I like it that she’s doing it herself,” Brantley said. “I like it when familiar songs sound fresh. You like to think that, especially her fan base, will have listened to those songs so often, that they may be sort of startled.”
According to Brantley, the jukebox musical era began in 2001 with the success of “Mamma Mia!”, an ABBA-inspired show that he describes as tacky and ridiculous. Despite this, he admits to enjoying it when he saw it in New York shortly after the 9/11 attacks. He believes that the mindlessness of the music provided a sense of release for the audience during a difficult time.
He stated that for many years, musicals have been incorporating elements of pop music. However, in the past, musicals were essentially pop music themselves. During that time, Broadway cast albums were frequently top-selling records.
Brantley stated that in the 1950s or possibly the 1940s, young adults would often join in singing “Some Enchanted Evening” from the musical “South Pacific.” During that time, there were also instances of creating stage musicals based on concept albums, such as “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Sanneh inquired whether the period of jukebox musicals has had a positive impact on Broadway and musicals as a whole.
Brantley responded with a disagreement, stating that his friend and current critic for the Times, Jesse Green, refers to jukebox musicals as the “cockroach” of the genre. However, Brantley’s opinion has shifted and he has come to appreciate jukebox musicals selectively.
The production “Hell’s Kitchen” has completely sold out and is considered a unique type of jukebox musical. However, it has a common goal in mind: according to Brantley, it is highly likely to end up on Broadway. He mentioned that it is the most expensive show the Public has ever put on and believes that most people are expecting it to transfer to Broadway.
Including Alicia Keys.
Sanneh inquired if it was significant to her that the show could potentially relocate 40 blocks north to Broadway.
“I have my sights set on that,” she stated. “It would be a dream come true, honestly.”
To get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the “Hell’s Kitchen” cast, click on the video player provided.
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This story was created by Mary Raffalli and edited by Ed Givnish.