Pulitzer-winning musical ‘A Strange Loop’ bows on Broadway
Every once in a while a musical comes to Broadway that fundamentally changes the art form. Just as rarely, a musical will win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, which has only happened 10 times in its more than century-long history. With “A Strange Loop”, which just bowed on April 26 at the Lyceum Theater, Broadway once again welcomes the rare musical that does both. Composer and librettist Michael R. JacksonThe Broadway debut was one of the most anticipated of the entire season, and it’s been brewing for a very long time. Stephen Bracknellwho directed early productions of the musical, is also directing this one.
“A Strange Loop” centers on Usher (Jaquel Spivey), an aspiring young black and queer musical theater composer working on a show called “A Strange Loop”, which ushers in Broadway musicals and struggles daily with his nagging thoughts, which take on human form through the entire show , including L Morgan Lee, James Jackson, Jr., John Michael Lyles, John Andrew Morrison, Jason Veaseyand Anthony Hopper; these “Thoughts” also depict various figures from Usher’s life.
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For its Broadway iteration, “A Strange Loop” received rave reviews from critics. Maya Phillips (New York Times) named the musical “Critic’s Pick”, calling it “remarkable”, “radical”, ” searing and sweet, tumultuous and disturbing” and “an incredible achievement”. She applauds Bracknell’s “lively direction” and the “uninhibited choreography” of Raja Plume Kelly. She says “Spivey gives a serious, lived-in performance” and describes Jackson as “prickly”, Veasey “suitably horrifying”, and Hopper “viper”. Phillips concludes by saying that “there seems to be no measure of praise that might be too much.”
Naveen Kumar (Variety) also calls the production a “phenomenal feat”, a “raw and unflinching questioning of identity and the most furiously entertaining show on Broadway”, and an “explosion of form”. He praises Spivey for his “remarkable Broadway debut”, adding that he is “a wonderfully dynamic and expressive performer and one who is impossible not to cheer for”. Of the musical as a whole, he cites its “wicked humor and invigorating bite”.
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Helen Shaw (Vulture) describes “A Strange Loop” as a “stunning”, “profane, hilarious, meta-musical”. Of the cast, she says Spivey’s “voice sails effortlessly through the rafters” and also singles out John-Andrew Morrison as “excellent” for her work as Usher’s mother. Although she thinks some of the innovations of her previous editions have worn off because the musical is now “going beyond the walls of the institution”, she still finds the show “fabulous, breathtaking” and “exhilarating”.
A Broadway musical with so much praise for its inventiveness — not to mention the consensus of almost every major theater critic — signals what a juggernaut “A Strange Loop” will be at the upcoming Tony Awards. The response isn’t unexpected, as the work already won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2020, and our current combined ratings believe it will add the Tony for Best Musical to its list of accolades.
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There’s no doubt that Stephen Brackett will also earn a nomination for Best Director, but the question remains whether he can trump the presumed frontrunner. Marianne Elliottwho reconsidered Stephen SondheimThe musical “Company,” which, when it debuted in 1970, marked a huge leap forward in the art form, just as “A Strange Loop” does now. Elliott is currently at the top of our forecast, but Brackett is a very strong second.
As Usher, Spivey delivers an unforgettable Broadway debut. Broadway’s New Toast Will Seek Best Actor Over the Likes of Tony Winner Hugh Jackman (“The Music Man”), billy crystal (“Mr. Saturday Night”), Tony’s former contestant Rob McClure (“Mrs. Doubtfire”) and another dazzling newcomer Myles Frost (“MJ The Musical”), and his performance is so impressive that he most likely will too.
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Given that the cast of “Strange Loop” is a veritable ensemble, their odds seem a little less clear in the categories presented. As “Thought 1,” L Morgan Lee has an excellent chance of being nominated for Featured Actress, currently just one spot outside of our top five. “A Strange Loop” has five eligible performers in the featured actor, and right now John-Andrew Morrison as “Thought 4” has emerged as the consensus pick in our odds and looks like a strong contender for a nomination for the third place, behind only Matt Doyle (“Company”) and Jefferson May (“The Music Man”).
Jackson’s utterly unique and innovative book and score are also class-leading. Of these two awards, it has the greatest advantage in Best Book, not only because of its purely imaginative character, but also because of its strength over the competition. In Best Score, he has an incredibly formidable contender in “Six,” whose pop reimaginings of the stories of King Henry VIII’s six wives have become sensations.
Also expect “A Strange Loop” to earn additional nominations in the design categories. Even though this season features an incredibly strong list of musicals and revivals vying for just one of the five spots in these races, when Tony’s nominators really love a work, they reward it with a slew of offers, which could easily be the case with this production. .
PREDICT the nominees for the 2022 Tony Awards until May 9
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