“Holler If Ya Hear Me” Closes Early On Broadway

holler if ya hear meAmbitious to Begin With

Holler If Ya Hear Me, the Tupac Shakur inspired musical that has been running on Broadway since June 2, 2014, closes today on Broadway – July 20, 2014 – after just 17 preview performances and 38 regular performances.  In the first place, the producers were taking a gamble because they elected to open a new musical at the start of the summer season, just after the excitement had died down after the Tony Awards.  This was certainly not the exception to prove the rule that it is a better bet to open at the height of the fall or spring seasons.  Second of all, the subject matter of the musical and the hip hop genre are unusual for Broadway.  Though Tupac Shakur is a huge household name, his audience doesn’t exactly correspond with the usual Broadway demographic.  It is admirable for producers to aim to reinvent the Broadway demographic, but it doesn’t just happen automatically.  Unfortunately, despite noble attempts at marketing and promotional efforts, this production did not crack the code for expanding the Broadway audience.

A Financial Failure

It is very possible that, given more time to reach its audience, the show could have sustained itself financially and reached a plateau where it was inching towards profitability.  However, the economics of Broadway dictate a very high floor for running costs, and in fact the theatre landlord can invoke a stop clause to force any production out of its house that is not making a certain minimum gross each week.  In the first six weeks of its run, Holler If Ya Hear Me did not gross over $163,586 in any week.  That number was only 18.32% of the show’s potential gross.  With a comparatively modest budget of $8 million, the show would still require a much higher gross in order to remain open.  The producers were forced to discount significantly, and therefore the average ticket price was generally around $30 to $35, which is exceedingly low for Broadway.  The lead producer Eric L. Gold admitted in Variety that he made a “rookie mistake” in misunderstanding the capital required to sustain a Broadway show.

Kenny Leon’s Latest Show

Holler If Ya Hear Me is the newest show directed by Kenny Leon, the exceedingly prolific director of African American content on holler if ya hear me castBroadway.  However, Mr. Leon has just as many hits as misses, with his repertoire including the vastly successful 2014 revival of A Raisin in the Sun and 2010’s Fences both starring Denzel Washington, as well as the flops Stick Fly and his 2004 revival of A Raisin in the SunHoller If Ya Hear Me has book by Todd Kreidler, who has worked with Leon before in an assistant directing capacity, and music orchestrated from Tupac Shakur’s repertoire.  The musical’s cast included Saul Williams making his Broadway debut, as well as New York theatre regular Tonya Pinkins.  The show opened on June 19, 2014 to fairly negative reviews, which did not sustain the already floundering musical.  Though closure was not immediately announced, the general critical consensus was that this musical would not last long.

“Holler if Ya Hear Me” Opens on Broadway

“Holler if Ya Hear Me” Negative Reviews Will Not Help Low Box Office Figures

The Tupac Shakur inspired musical Holler if Ya Hear Me had its official opening on June 19, 2014 at the Palace Theatre, after running for 17 preview performances.  In the weeks approaching the opening night, upon which the critical response would be publicized to the masses, ticket sales were abominably low.  With an average weekly ticket price ranging between $24.10 and $32.84, the show only managed to bring in at the most $170,652 a week in its first three weeks of running.  These numbers were so dire, in fact, that one of the producers was quoted as saying that the musical would close just over a week after opening if the reviews were poor.  The reviews are in, and they are well below positive.  However, the production has made no official announcement of closing in the timeframe that they had supposedly specified.  Still, it is doubtful if the show will be able to stay afloat for much longer with these low numbers, coupled with the negative reviews.

holler if ya hear meVeteran Director Kenny Leon Did Not Save This Show

Holler if Ya Hear Me is written by Todd Kreidler and directed by Kenny Leon, with lyrics by Tupac Shakur, and the music arranged and orchestrated by Daryl Waters.  Leon is also behind the acclaimed and Tony Award winning revival of A Raisin in the Sun that just concluded performances this season.  However, Holler if Ya Hear Me was much less well received.  Charles Isherwood of The New York Times gave it a fairly negative review, criticizing the show for being relentless and heavy-handed in driving home its tragic themes.  The Hollywood Reporter called the show well-intentioned but toothless, and Time Out New York, NBC, and Associated Press were all on the fence but certainly not singing the praises of this tuner.  In general, critics were appreciative of the performances, especially the star Saul Williams making his Broadway debut.  They also enjoyed the beats and the music, but reviewers were less in favor of the uneven narrative storytelling and the ramshackle method of re-appropriating Tupac’s songs for the stage.

A Summer Hip Hop Musical Was A Long Shot All Along

The show was already a long-shot for success on Broadway for a number of reasons, and these reviews will certainly not help attract audiences to the struggling production.  For one, it opened in the summer after the Tony Awards, when no other shows are opening.  There is a reason for this, and it is because most summer tourists tend to choose a long-running musical, or a recent Tony Award winning hit, rather than a new show they have barely heard about.  Furthermore, its demographic is a tough one for Broadway.  According to Michael Riedel of The New York Post, a veteran producer was quoted as saying that the show would fail because the average theatre ticket buyers are middle-aged women, who are generally not familiar with the music of Tupac.  In general, he said, it would be tough for a rap musical to make it on Broadway, especially when there is not a Hollywood star leading the cast.

holler if ya hear me cast

This is unfortunate, as hip hop has been mainstream for quite a while, and it is a shame that Broadway has not reached the point where it can be representative of the nation as a whole.  Perhaps this is because Broadway prices out many of the individuals who would have enjoyed a show about Tupac, or maybe it is because the attempt to bridge these two art forms was misguided in the first place.  In any case, the show will most likely not be open for much longer, even if it is still hanging on a week after opening.

Tupac Shakur Musical “Holler if Ya Hear Me” Begins Previews

“Holler if Ya Hear Me”, Inspired By The Late Tupac Shakur, Begins Previews On Broadway

Tupac Shakur is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold over 75 million records in his career.  His albums include “2Pacalypse Now,” “Until the End of Time,” “All Eyez on Me,” “Me Against the World,” and “Pac’s Life.”  The life of this brilliant rapper and actor was cut short in 1996, however, when he was shot multiple times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas at the age of only 25.  Despite the brevity of his career, he has managed to maintain a huge following and long-standing appreciation, with Rolling Stone Magazine having recently proclaimed him the 86th Greatest Artist of All Time.  The themes of Tupac’s music often involve the hardship of the life in inner cities, as well as racism and other social issues; both of his parents were members of the Black Panther Party.  Tupac’s legacy has been upheld through organizations, honors, and multiple documentaries, but for the first time, his music and story are coming to Broadway.

holler if ya hear meOpening  scheduled for June 19, 2014 at the Palace Theatre on Broadway

On June 2, 2014, Holler if Ya Hear Me, a new musical inspired by the music of Tupac Shakur, will begin previews at the Palace Theatre.  With an opening night scheduled for June 19, 2014, the musical is presently set for an open-ended run.  The show is directed by Kenny Leon, whose magnificent career has sky-rocketed in recent years to define him as the preeminent interpreter of African American content for the Broadway stage.  The book was written by Todd Kreidler, who has served as Dramaturg for two Broadway productions directed by Leon and written by August Wilson – Gem of the Ocean and Radio Golf – and who also associate directed another Leon-Wilson collaboration: Fences starring Denzel Washington in 2010.  This is the first time, however, that Kreidler has stepped up to a major position on the creative team of one of Kenny Leon’s productions.  The choreography is by Wayne Cilento (The Who’s Tommy, Wicked).

The Show borrows “Holler if Ya Hear Me” from Tupac’s Second Album

The title of this musical comes from the name of a song on Tupac’s second studio album.  The story is not exactly a biographical depiction of the late singer’s life, however; it is a fictional tale of a young black man who is released from prison, only to face a continued slew of obstacles that lie in his path.  It uses the phrases and ideas found in Tupac’s music to tell this universal tale of friendship, family, love, and hope.  The musical received a 5-week workshop last summer in anticipation of its Broadway run this season.  The show is produced by Tupac’s mother, Afeni Shakur, along with Eric L. Gold, Chunsoo Shin, Jessica Green, and Marcy Kaplan-Gold.  The large cast is made up mostly of ensemble, but it also includes actors such as Tonya Pinkins (Caroline or Change, Radio Golf) and the principal young man is played by actor and rapper Saul Williams, making his Broadway debut.

The Show Is Geared For A Wide Demographic, But Socially Conscious

The intention of the show is socially conscious, which is an unusual first motive for Broadway shows, especially thostupac shakure opening in the summer season, generally known for lighter fare such as Beatles revues and long-running shows.  However, Leon and his cast will not shy away from shining a light on important issues at the heart of the contradictions in American society.  Geared for a wide demographic of all ages and colors, the show will nevertheless aim to expose the hypocrisy of free speech in present day American culture.  Thankfully, the prominent voice kept alive through Tupac’s music will now find another outlet on the Broadway stage.