Broadway's Palace Theatre Given $200,000 Makeover for Holler If Ya Hear Me

By Michael Gioia
22 Apr 2014

Christopher Jackson
Christopher Jackson

The Palace Theatre has been given a $200,000 renovation for Holler If Ya Hear Me, the new Broadway musical inspired by the lyrics of Tupac Shakur that will begin performances May 29 towards a June 19 opening.

According to the Wall Street Journal, scenic designer Edward Pierce and the creatives of Holler have repositioned the ground-level orchestra seats into a stadium-seating configuration to "deepen the sense of intimacy" at the Palace.

"Everybody in those first few rows can basically high-five the actors," Pierce told the Wall Street Journal. "They're that close."

Rows A-J rise in a direct line from the edge of the stage up to the front mezzanine — to focus the performers' delivery upward — and rows K-Z of the orchestra will be unused, decreasing the house capacity to 1,120 seats (compared to the previous 1,740 seats). Holler is also responsible for returning the theatre's seating to its original state following its run (which currently remains open-ended).



"As an actor, you're constantly trying to split your focus," said Pierce. "I think the actors are going to find some great comfort in this because they only have to play up, which means they can keep their chin up, which allows them to be very consistent and clean in projecting these lyrics."

Additionally, the Palace stage has been extended past the proscenium arch and now covers the orchestra pit (the orchestra will be relocated for Holler If Ya Hear Me), and the audience will be able to see images projected onto the stage floor.

Written by Todd Kreidler and directed by Kenny Leon, Holler If Ya Hear Me will feature slam poet, actor, singer and musician Saul Williams ("Slam") as John with Christopher Jackson (In the Heights, After Midnight) as Vertus, Saycon Sengbloh (Motown, Fela!) as Corinne, Ben Thompson (Matilda) as Griffy, Tony nominee John Earl Jelks (Radio Golf) as Street Preacher, Joshua Boone (Brownsville Song [b side for Tray] at Actors Theatre of Louisville) as Darius, Dyllon Burnside ("Prison Break") as Anthony and Tony winner Tonya Pinkins (Jelly's Last Jam; Caroline, or Change; Play On!) as Mrs. Weston.

Rounding out the cast are Afi Bijou (Fela!), Mel Charlot (three-time World Hip Hop Champion), Carrie Compere (Shrek national tour), Otis Cotton, Ariana Groover (Bare Off-Broadway), Jared Joseph (The Book of Mormon national tour), Jahi Kearse (Baby It's You), Muata Langley (freestyle Krump performer), Valentine Norton ("American Idol"), Christina Sajous (Spider-Man Turn off the Dark), Charlene "Chi Chi" Smith, Jaime Lincoln Smith (Ruined Off-Broadway), Donald Webber, Jr. (Motown) and Joaquina Kalukango (Antony and Cleopatra).

Holler If Ya Hear Me, the world inside Tupac Shakur's music and lyrics, "blazes to life in a non-biographical story about friendship, family, revenge, change and hope. Inner city lives struggle for peace against the daily challenges they face in this entertaining and original musical," according to press notes. "Through the poetry of one of the 20th century's most influential and culturally prominent voices, we are given a window into realities of the streets still relevant today."

Joining director Leon (A Raisin in the Sun, Fences, The Mountaintop) and author Kreidler (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and direction of How I Learned What I Learned) on the creative team are Tony Award-winning choreographer Wayne Cilento (Wicked, The Who's Tommy, How to Succeed…, Aida, Sweet Charity) and musical supervisor Daryl Waters (Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring In 'Da Funk; The Color Purple; Memphis).

Other members of the creative team includes scenic designer Pierce (The Other Place, Shatner's World) based on original concepts by David Gallo; projections designer Zachary G. Borovay (No Man's Land, Waiting for Godot); costume designer Reggie Ray (Stick Fly); lighting designer Mike Baldassari (Cabaret, Titanic, First Date); and sound designers John Shivers (Kinky Boots) and David Patridge (Soul Doctor).

Holler If Ya Hear Me is produced on Broadway by Afeni Shakur, Eric L. Gold, Chunsoo Shin, Jessica Green and Marcy Kaplan-Gold. The general manager is Richard Martini for KL Management.

Visit HollerIfYaHearMe.com.