A national tour and possible London run are in the works. The show, produced and conceived by Russell Simmons and Stan Lathan, will have played 198 performances and 16 previews.
Def Poetry Jam stars spoken-word artists Beau Sia, Black Ice, Staceyann Chin, Steve Coleman, Mayda Del Valle, Georgia Me, Suheir Hammad, Lemon, Poetri and D.J. Tendaji. Critics embraced their work as a breath of fresh air on Broadway.
A Tony Awards committee recently said the work could be eligible for a Special Theatrical Event nomination for the 2002-03 season.
Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam opened on Broadway Nov. 14, 2002, and outlasted such fare as the much-hyped, multimillion dollar Dance of the Vampires. The theatrical offering, a first for slam-style poetry on the Great White Way, began previews at the Longacre Oct. 30. The poems, performed like mini-plays or casual conversations by an award-winning nine-member troupe, move through a vast range of hip-hop, urban and just plain human subjects, some serious, some not. The poet known as Poetri does a humorous ode to Krispy Kremes, which includes a mock conspiracy theory that Krispy Kremes (formerly Kroissants?) is just another KKK keeping the black man down, while Georgia Me turns her laugh-worthy love of Little Debbie snack cakes into a moving "Fat Girl's Blues."
The poets, many veterans of New York City's famed Nuyorican Poets Cafe, celebrate the uniqueness of their neighborhoods, experiences and backgrounds from Palestinian-African American Suheir Hammad's angry "Exotic," Beau Sia's Oklahoma suburbs, Mayda Del Valle's mother creating spicy foods in her cocina and Lemon's "Brooklyn." Musical influences pepper the evening, not only in the hip-hop, rap, R&B and rock 'n' roll tracks spun by DJ Tendaji between poems, but also in the poetry itself, which includes a piece, delivered by Black Ice and Staceyann Chin, underlining the community's loss from the deaths of Jam Master Jay and Bob Marley.
Def Poetry Jam, as theatre, debuted at San Francisco's Theatre on the Square in summer 2002, although the HBO specials of the same name have been popular for some time. Jam co-creator Stan Lanthan directed that world premiere and returned to helm the Broadway production.
Tickets are $25-$65. For reservations, call (212) 239-6200. The Longacre Theatre is located at 220 West 48th Street. Def Poetry Jam is on the web at http://www.defpoetryjamnyc.com.