Kenny Leon's Tupac Shakur Musical Heading To Broadway During 2013/2014 Season

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by Tambay A. Obenson
June 24, 2013 2:47 PM
9 Comments
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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 2 springs ago, 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 helming, with new word hitting the airwaves today stating that a 5-week-long summer developmental workshop for the musical, inspired by the work of Tupac Shakur, titled Holler If Ya Hear Me, is currently underway in New York City. Accompanying that news is that director Leon plans for a Broadway debut during the upcoming 2013-2014 season.

Recapping the details...

Director Leon first mentioned the project 2 years ago, 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 last 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."

And then in an interview later last year, Naturi Naughton, while she was doing promo work for The Client List, 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.”

No word on whether she's still involved. 

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.

Along with the announcement came an official synopsis for the project:

Holler If Ya Hear Me is a new musical inspired by the work of Tupac Shakur. Set present-day in the inner city streets 'my block' of a Mid-western industrial city, Holler tells the story of two childhood friends (John and Vertus) and their friends, relatives and adversaries as they struggle to reconcile the challenges and realities of their daily lives with their hopes, dreams and ambitions.

So if it isn't already clear, this isn't a Tupac biopic stage musical. They'll apparently be using his music, but it's not his story that the production will tell.

The non-biographical work features a book by Todd Kreidler and choreography by Tony Award Winner Wayne Cilento (Wicked, How to Succeed…, AIDA), with musical supervision by Daryl Waters (Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring In ‘Da Funk, The Color Purple, Memphis).

Holler If Ya Hear Me is produced by Afeni Shakur, Eric L. Gold, Chunsoo Shin and Jessica Green.

Stay tuned...

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9 Comments

  • TYme | June 25, 2013 6:05 PMReply

    Excited 4 this! Love Tupac! I hope this does well. Love the idea of Naturi Naughton in it too! She's a dope actress and she can blow! Been a fan since 3lw.

  • Donna Serra | June 24, 2013 5:16 PMReply

    Wow. This will be something to see. I don't even know Joe it's going to be pulled off but I'm into it.

  • FactChecker | June 24, 2013 4:52 PMReply

    This will close before it opens. I can't imagine there's a broad enough interest -- or audience -- interested in this man's life to support ticket sales on Broadway -- or anywhere else, for that matter.

  • Ashley | June 24, 2013 11:49 PM

    You must have skipped over the part where it says "inspired by the work of Tupac Shakur" and "the idea was always to make a musical inspired by his music and not to do an autobiographical approach to his life..."

  • Ava | June 24, 2013 3:58 PMReply

    I'm guessing that the critical success of Fela and Broadway's growing thirst for younger audiences set amid the claims of wanting a diverse ticket buying, er, I mean theater-going consumer, I mean audience is driving it.
    Kenny Leon is a talented director and certainly a recognizable name, so I can see this drawing a number of investors.
    I'm not sure what to think. To be honest, I write straight plays, not musicals so I'm no expert in predicting what will happen with this musical. I don't expect B'way A.K.A. 'The Great White Way' to really produce anything gritty, though. Gritty for Musical Theater on Broadway is Rent or West Side Story.

  • Skyler60 | June 24, 2013 3:47 PMReply

    Sweeta- you know how Broadway works?? Do tell, as one who makes their employment through various Broadway shows, I would love a deeper insight per your intricate experience. Broadway musicals and plays span an array of depth and perception. This won't be the first time an artists music will be used to tell a story. Disney is not the ONLY base of a Broadway show- if at all. Lets not generalize on things we aren't experienced enough to speak upon.

  • Sweeta | June 28, 2013 4:11 PM

    You must be a long lost friend I forgot about because you know a lot about my experience, though I have absolutely no recollection of sharing said information with you. Your assumptions about me are more asinine than any assumption I could make about Broadway, seeing as how I know Broadway, and have read about Broadway, and have heard about Broadway and I doubt you know me, have read about me, or have heard about me. And if you have, oooh please cite those publications--I'd love to see my spread!!!

    And when I refer to "Disneyfication," I mean the tendency to produce sanitized versions of stories in an effort to make it all go down for the Great White Way's very old, very rich, and very White (Hence the name. You get it?) patrons. Duh Disney is not the only base of Broadway show. "I don't expect B'way A.K.A. 'The Great White Way' to really produce anything gritty, though. Gritty for Musical Theater on Broadway is Rent or West Side Story," to echo AVA above.

  • Sweeta | June 24, 2013 3:12 PMReply

    DISCLAIMER: This is not hate.

    Okay, I don't like the idea of this. I know how Broadway works and I'm not interested in the Disneyfication of Tupac or his music. But I guess if Afeni is on board on producer, I'm going to keep my eyes and ears open.

  • Clarity | June 24, 2013 3:07 PMReply

    This project features the music of Tupac - the score includes and/or is inspired by his actual body of work. The script/story however is not about Tupac. I'm happy that Tupac's music is making its way to Broadway, but a more adequate headline for this story is " Score for New Broadway Play Inspired by Tupac" or something to that effect.

    There are very few (less than five) theater productions around the country whose actual SCRIPTS AND CHARACTERS have direct correlations to Tupac Shakur's life. This is not one one of them, although I'm sure it will be a great production.

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