The City Center Encores! production of the Tony-nominated musical The Life, newly adapted and directed by Tony and Emmy winner Billy Porter (Kinky Boots, Pose), began at the Manhattan venue March 16, with a run set to continue through March 20. See what the critics had to say about the production below.
As concert adapter and director, Porter, who received the blessings of the Coleman, Gasman, and Newman estates, has reshaped the work into a musical drama, humanizing the production’s Black characters in their struggles, passions, and desperate bids for success.
The cast features Jelani Alladin as Lou, Alexandra Grey as Queen, Antwayn Hopper as Memphis, Grammy nominee Mykal Kilgore as Young JoJo, Grammy winner Ledisi as Sonja, Erika Olson as Mary, Destan Owens as Old Jojo, and Ken Robinson as Fleetwood.
The Life—with music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Ira Gasman, and book by David Newman, Gasman, and Coleman—was nominated for 12 1997 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and tells the story of Queen and her fellow sex workers, who strive for a better life against oppressive forces in post-disco Times Square.
Read what critics thought of the West End staging in the reviews below:
New York Times (Elisabeth Vincentelli)
Theatre Pizzazz (Brian Scott Lipton)
Playbill will continue to update this page as reviews come in.
The ensemble includes Joe Beauregard, Angela Brydon, Adee David, Tyler Eisenreich, Asmeret Ghebremichael, Semhar Ghebremichael, Jeff Gorti, Albert Guerzon, Heather Lang, Nathan Lucrezio, Tiffany Mann, LaQuet Sharnell Pringle, Devin L. Roberts, MiMi Scardulla, Anastasia Talley, and Tanairi Vazquez.
City Center's staging also features new, funk-infused arrangements and orchestrations by guest musical director James Sampliner, new vocal arrangements by Michael McElroy, scenic design by Clint Ramos, costume design by Anita Yavich, lighting design by Driscoll Otto, sound design by Kai Harada and Megumi Katayama, projection design by Zachary Borovay, wig and hair design by Tom Watson, casting by The Telsey Office, and choreography by AC Ciulla.
The Encores! season, which began in February with The Tap Dance Kid and closes in May with Into the Woods, is Lear deBessonet’s first as Encores! artistic director, alongside Music Director Rob Berman and Producing Creative Director Clint Ramos.