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Naturi Naughton Workshopping Tupac Musical + Co-Stars w/ Kimberly Elise In Indie Drama "Highland Park"

by Tambay A. Obenson
April 10, 2012 11:38 AM
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A film based on the late rapper/actor's life is still in Limbo (Antoine Fuqua was to direct it, and even began the casting process last spring, but nothing came from that, and Fuqua left the project; John Singleton then was said to have taken over for Fuqua, but then he left the project as well); but a Tupac Shakur stage musical is indeed in the works with Kenny Leon (maybe the most popular black director working on Broadway right now; although there aren't exactly many of them) helming.

Recapping the details...

It'll be titled Holler If Ya Hear Me, the title of a track from 2Pac's second solo album, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.

Director Leon first mentioned the project last year, while doing press for The Mountaintop (Katori Hall's award-winning play), stating:

"The idea was always to make a musical inspired by his music and not to do an autobiographical approach to his life or anything like that... And because I always thought that Tupac was a prophet and I thought if everybody could hear his words and hear his stories, they would see what I see."

And earlier this year, he added:

"So we are going to probably do a big workshop in New York this summer and I'm going to try to bring it to Broadway in the next Broadway season... So a year from now hopefully you'll be seeing this world-changing musical on the Broadway stage. I couldn't be more excited... Todd Krickler is writing the book, and with the lyrics by Tupac, it's going to be very exciting, pretty much would sort of change the face of musical theater as we know it on Broadway, so I am looking forward to that."

Early last month, I posted a casting notice for the project which was seeking African American actors and actresses between 18 and 35 who can rap, and one Caucasian actor (20 - 25) who can also rap and play guitar. The notice for for a workshop of the production which is to run from April 23 through May 11.

I was reading THIS April 6 BET interview with Naturi Naughton, while she was doing promo work for The Client List, in which she stated that she was going to "spend the next few months in New York in a workshop production of Holler If Ya Hear Me..."

From the BET piece:

... she will definitely get the chance to put her pipes to use this spring. She’ll spend the next few months in New York in a workshop production of Holler if You Hear Me, based on the music of Tupac Shakur. “It’s not Tupac’s life, it’s his music inspiring a story,” she differentiates. She's sworn to secrecy not to reveal plot or cast, but was visibly thrilled to be a part of it. “Singing and performing is my passion,” she says. “I’m really happy.”

Ok so clearly she's involved - in the workshop of the project anyway; I should note that being cast in the workshop doesn't necessarily solidify an actor being cast when the production moves from the workshop phase to a full-on Broadway show.

But I'd guess that she's in it, and will be in it when this does go to Broadway; Kenny Leon loves casting recognizable names, and, even though her star is still rising, she's a "name" with a blossoming fan base, relative to the myriad of *struggling* actors on the NYC scene fighting daily for their one shot at a career boost.

In the BET piece, it's also noted that Ms Naughton co-stars in the indie feature Highland Park, which we've actually not covered on S&A, and I'm just learning about. It the film, she plays "an aspiring singer encouraged by her guidance counselor to set her sights beyond her Detroit neighborhood and follow her dreams."

And who plays her guidance counselor? Kimberly Elise!

But I should note that this is an ensemble drama centered on a high school faculty lotto pool that "places its fate in the lucky numbers they've played for ten years after hearing budget cuts have eliminated all their jobs."

The cast includes Danny Glover, Rockmond Dunbar, Parkey Posey, Bo Derek, Michelle Forbes and many others.

It's listed as completed as of December 2011 on IMDB, so I'm guessing it'll debut on the film festival circuit shortly; unless it already has, and we just missed it.

But Ms Naughton is managing to keep herself busy it appears...

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  • Keshay | April 11, 2012 4:11 AMReply

    Naturi is so talented and I would be so excited to see her on Broadway. She will kill it...have u heard that girl sing??? By the way, watched her in "the client list". Loved it and loved her! Im happy that she's getting the SHINE that she deserves!

  • Blipster | April 10, 2012 10:22 PMReply

    I love Naturi and I'm so proud of her. Im happy to see that Hollywood and Broadway is welcoming a young and extremely talented woman of color. We need more of us beautiful dark skinned women in the spotlight. Yeah I said it.

  • Miles Ellison | April 10, 2012 9:39 PMReply

    This project is in limbo because they can't find some white nobody with a tangential relationship to Tupac to build the film around.

  • Akimbo | April 10, 2012 2:51 PMReply

    I like Naturi fine, hoping she gets to branch out into less sexual roles. Don't think she's overexposed, think she's just a working actor. Kenny Leon is a hack, though. I'm amazed at all the high-profile work he continues to get.

  • Akimbo | April 11, 2012 1:39 AM

    He's an incredibly mediocre director who built his his career in Atlanta on his now deceased wife's name and has lucked up from there. Have you even seen any of his productions or are you just basing his "talent" off of his ubiquity? Having seen The Mountaintop, Fences, Raisin, & Gem of the Ocean on Broadway, in addition to some of his work in Atl, I can say that his productions are awkwardly blocked, oddly staged, and peppered with weird atonal moments.
    Plays thrive despite his direction, not because of it. The burden lays fully on the actors and the script, which is why The Mountaintop was such a disappointment. He failed to elevate the weak material and had Angela Bassett overacting on a ridiculous level. On another note: Have you even seen Stick Fly? You keep talking sideways about it...

  • CareyCarey | April 10, 2012 9:57 PM

    I don't think many people will agree with your "hack" reference. I mean, looking at his past and recent achievements, it behooves you to qualify that statement. You know, considering the success of The Mountain Top and Fences, I don't believe he falls in the hack category. But wait, Stick Fly didn't stick and he once cast Puffy in A Raisen In The Sun. So uuUUMMM? Maybe we'll see the real deal when Steel Magnolias hits Lifetime? Anyway, although Tupac's sound was carried by a strong hook and hard bass beats, his lyrics were some of the sweetest and most poignant stories ever told. Now I don't know the demographics of the New York theater crowd, but I'd pay top dollar to see Holler if You Hear Me. Yet, given the racial flavor of much of Tupac's music (and his bad boy image), I am wondering if white dollars are needed to make this a success, and will they pay to see it?

  • Jayson Jay | April 10, 2012 1:30 PMReply

    I think she is just so damn gorgeous. More please.

  • Nadine | April 10, 2012 12:17 PMReply

    ...please... no more Naughton. She is way over exposed... my gosh... when will this end?

  • misha | April 10, 2012 1:42 PM

    "Over exposed?" How so? My goodness, the woman hasn't even gotten a leading role yet! LOL I'm hoping to see much more of her on the small and big screen, as I think she's beautiful and has loads of potential.

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