Tupac Shakur and Broadway, a combination people would not think to put together, except director Kenny Leon. After 15 years of anticipation, “Holler If You Hear Me” became the new kid on the block on Broadway that premiered June 19 at the Palace Theatre. The show wraps up January 2015.
Surprisingly, the story is not a biography about the iconic west coast rapper, but it is a musical piece that features his gritty but yet so relatable poems and songs. The story behind this musical production involves the controversial culture in which hardcore hip-hop originates. The show takes you on an emotional roller-coaster ride as the plot develops. There is anger, there is sadness, but there are parts where you may chuckle.
The nature of the play contradicts what one may usually see or hear during a traditional Broadway musical. Instead of charming soliloquies, this production features the hard-nosed, controversial music of Shakur. It features some of Tupac’s 90s throwbacks you probably threw your hands up and rapped to like the single man’s anthem “I Get Around,” and the party tune “California Love.” However, some of the car-rattling Tupac tunes that we are all used to have been modified, such as an acoustic version of “Thug Mansion.”
Along with instrumental alterations to the original pieces, there are differences with pace and how the songs are sung. Remember tunes we adored by Tupac like “Dear Mama” and “Keep Your Head Up?” Womanhood seemed to be the main inspiration for these anthems and as the play progresses these songs are lead by strong female vocalists harmonizing such lyrics as, “forgive but don’t forget, girl keep your head up.” If you don’t mind a few theatrical variations to your hip-hop anthology, then this may be the production for you.
As previously mentioned, this play has a story of its own pitting good against evil in a close-knit, but not so friendly neighborhood battling gang related struggles. It also chronicles the story of a young man trying to turn his life around after being rehabilitated in state penitentiary.
At first, it may be difficult to determine the central issue in this musical because of the plethora of characters. By there being so many critical characters, it becomes difficult to form a connection. However, over the course of the production, each character falls in their role perfectly and together they make quite the interesting anecdote.
Also, there is no censoring as far as the language of the play is concerned. There are times when the n-word and other curse words are tossed around the script. Though, by the nature of the play, it should not come off as too much of a surprise. Tupac was a passionate rapper and this musical draws parallel to that.
Who would have thought that Tupac songs and poems would be in Broadway musicals where the crowd is of all colors and ages? It is quite interesting as well as enlightening to see the broad spectrum of people in the audience mouthing the words and slightly grooving to the songs. It just goes the show that a specific era or genre of music has no boundaries, especially when it comes to Tupac Shakur.