"I want to hear a poem," 1999 Fresh Poet of the Year Steve Colman will say and Russell Simmon's Def Poetry Jam will kick off its Nov. 14 Broadway opening night. The unique theatrical offering, a first for slam-style poetry on the Great White Way, began previews at the Longacre Theatre 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 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 this past summer, although the HBO specials 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. – By Christine Ehren