Saul Williams Talks Tupac Broadway Musical and Why He Thinks It Faltered
By Marissa G. Muller
The world wasn’t ready for a Tupac musical on Broadway, apparently. After only 55 performances, the Broadway production Holler If Ya Hear Me, starring Saul Williams as an ex-con trying to get back on track, closed on Sunday.
While lead producer Eric L. Gold cited the “the financial burdens of Broadway” as the reason the production shuttered, Williams has his own theories.
The spoken word artist thinks the play struggled because it touched on an uncomfortable topic.
“The idea of having a play that centers around, How do you stop the cycles of gun violence in our community? It’s weird to hear someone feel like the story is generic when it’s the front page of every f–king paper to date,” he told Rolling Stone, adding, “I also cannot go without saying that there was something deeply embedded in a lot of the reviews that went deeper than just a dislike of the play.”
Williams even revealed that the production team had an inkling the musical wasn’t going to be well-received. “We’ve known what was going on all along,” he added. “Every day at rehearsal, Kenny Leon was saying, “Let’s be very clear with the fact that this play is probably going to be hated coming out the gates.”
Despite this production’s untimely close, Williams thinks hip-hop plays will be the norm in the future. “More hip-hop musicals are inevitable if Broadway wishes to survive,” he said.
He’s still hopeful about the future of Holler If Ya Hear Me, possibly existing in some other form like a tour. “It’s clear that Tupac is never going to die,” he added. “I have no idea what Eric is up to, but they went into this knowing that they could have started with a tour before Broadway, but they wanted that Broadway stamp and this is the cost of that stamp. Anything that involves struggle involves finance. America’s been on the wrong side of history lots of times. We were allies with Germany until Charlie Chaplin came out with The Great Dictator and then we were like, ‘Holy f–k and we switched sides. When you do something fresh and new, you’re going to face obstacles and I promise you this story isn’t over.”
Holler If Ya Hear Me, despite a prime spot in the midst of Time Square on Broadway, closed after just a month. While it wasn’t a Tupac-centric musical, it featured many of the rapper’s songs and was produced in part by the late rapper’s mother.