HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME Review: Stop, Look, and LISTEN!

HOLLER IF YA HEAR ME, the new musical based upon the lyrics of the late Tupac Shakur, is an exciting, innovative addition to the Great White Way. Under the direction of Tony Award-winner Kenny Leon (Raisin in the The Sun), the plot follows the release of John (Saul Williams) from prison as he returns to the aftermath of the block he left behind. Vertus (Christopher Jackson), his neighbor and good friend, is now dating his love Corine (Saycon Sengbloh) and his block turns to a cry for vengeance after the death of Vertus’ brother, Benny (Donald Webber Jr).

The show transfuses the lyrics of Tupac to create compelling dialogue and electrifying songs. One example, the popular “Dear Mama,” starts with Jackson quietly speaking to his mother through the vivid, heartwrenching lyrics. As he talks, the cast-members sing the ode to his mother underneath his speech, leading Jackson’s spoken word into the chorus.

Photo: Joan Marcus
Holler If You Hear Me uses brilliant lighting design to help set both mood and illustrate what’s inside the mind of the lead character John. The lighting designer, Mike Baldassari and projections director, Zachary G. Borovay, intelligently makes use of projected images through out the show, seemingly taken from John’s notebook. This reviewer wishes there were more use made of the projections; perhaps key lyrics and inclusion of the symbolic rose grown from concrete, but otherwise they are compelling.

At times it’s difficult to understand the actors, and if you’re not extremely familiar with Tupac’s work, you may want a quick crash course or you will find yourself with a cocked head and alert ear. The plot is loose, but Saul Williams, Christopher Jackson, and Ben Thompson, who plays Griffy the owner of the garage and the representative of John’s clean slate, make a formidable team of talent. Thompson brings both humor and charm to an otherwise grim tale and this reviewer dares you to try and not sing along to his rich voice in “Thugz Mansion.”

In contrast, Williams brings a passion and undeniable intensity, capturing the fire, heartache, and pain of Tupac’s words, his whole body charged with each word. Jackson is the perfect combination of innocence and street justice. Topped with Sengbloh playing the love interest with talent and grace, and the Tony Award winning Tonya Pinkins tugs at your heartstrings as Mrs. Weston, and you have a quite accomplished cast. With such talent, one wishes they took more time and a few extra steps in developing the characters.

Photo: Joan Marcus
A piece of advice, this is one show in which it pays to sit as close to the stage as possible- you can feel the beat of the music. The newly renovated stadium seating of the Palace Theater makes you feel like you’re sitting on the stoop “on the block” watching this story unfold, and the choreography by Wayne Cilento in the top of the second act is more impressive from close seats.

Photo: Joan Marcus
Final word, if you are on the fence of attending this show, this reviewer’s advice is to jump off the fence and head to Palace Theater with an open mind. Attend not only for the incredible talent onstage, but for the message, the passion, and the experience. This show is an EXPERIENCE, and one you won’t soon regret.

Broadway’s Greatest Support Friends in Theater!

Don’t take our word for it!
KINKY BOOTS’ Annaleigh Ashford, Stark Sands, and Billy Porter, BRING IT ON’s Janet Krupin, NEWSIES’ Ryan Steele and Adam Kaplan, and CINDERELLA’s Anna Harada and Santigo Fontana are helping us spread the word about this awesome cause!

View more exclusive videos and support Friends In Theater Company’s production of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND by donating to the RocketHub campaign here: http://tinyurl.com/l6l2g5d

Review, “All The Way” Broadway

Run, don’t walk, to the Neil Simon Theater! As stated in Act 1, “the ugliest sound in the world is the tick…tick…ticking of the clock” and every minute that goes in which you don’t grab a ticket to Bryan Cranston’s flawless Broadway debut, is a minute wasted!

Amber Cooks Up Some Fun with the Casserole Queens!

ABC Coast to Coast presents The Casserole Queens! Super adorable and smart cookies to boot, they are taking the world by storm- one casserole at a time! Live from the set of their new cookbook, meet Sandy Pollock and Crystal Cook, Austin, Texas’ own Casserole Queens. These New York Times Best Selling authors have appeared on Throwdown! with Bobby Flay, The Today Show, QVC, Oprah.com, CNN.com and Martha Stewart Living Radio.

For more of these nifties from the fifties: www.casserolequeens.com

To order their current cookbook, and get a jump on the next one visit Amazon.com