PHOTO CALL: "Forever Hop 'Cause it Don't Stop on My Block!" A First Look at Tupac Shakur-Scored Musical Holler If Ya Hear Me

By Matthew Blank
June 6, 2014

The Tupac Shakur-scored musical Holler If Ya Hear Me, a non-biographical new work directed by 2014 Tony Award nominee Kenny Leon, began performances June 2 at Broadway's Palace Theatre.

Written by Todd Kreidler and directed by Leon, Holler If Ya Hear Me features 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.



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Saul Williams and cast
Photo by Joan Marcus



"I'm such a Tupac fan beyond his music, but of his spirit, too," Williams, who is making his Broadway debut in the production, told Playbill magazine. "To me, Tupac is the Rambo of, I wouldn't just say hip-hop, but of American poetry. And I think that in terms of what [Jean-Michel] Basquiat may represent as the visual artist of the hip-hop world or aesthetic, I think that Tupac is the sonic equivalent of that." 

Rounding out the cast are Tracee Beazer (Memphis), Afi Bijou (Fela!), Mel Charlot (three-time World Hip Hop Champion), Carrie Compere (Shrek national tour), Otis Cotton, Ryan Davis (danced for Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj), Brandon Gill (Neighbors at The Public), Ariana Groover (Bare Off-Broadway), F. Michael Haynie (Wicked), Jared Joseph (The Book of Mormon national tour), Jahi Kearse (Baby It's You), Muata Langley (freestyle Krump performer), Candace Maxwell, 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).

Opening night is set for June 19. 

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."

Read the Playbill.com feature with director Leon, who was Tony-nominated for the direction of A Raisin in the Sun and compares the work of Shakur and Lorraine Hansberry

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). Casting is by Caparelliotis Casting (Casa Valentina, The Trip to Bountiful).

Other members of the creative team includes scenic designer Edward 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). Casting is by Caparelliotis Casting (Casa Valentina, The Trip to Bountiful).

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

Visit HollerIfYaHearMe.com.