Scott, Richard, and I saw *A Strange Loop* on Broadway on June 22, 2022.
It's a new musical with book, music, and lyrics by Michael R. Jackson, directed by Stephen Brackett. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2020 and the Tony for Best Musical in 2022. It was shockingly original.
The show is about a queer Black man writing a musical about a queer Black man writing a musical. His day job is as an usher at *The Lion King.* The six members of the ensemble play his Thoughts, at first his inner voices misguiding him, belittling him, and later they play members of his family, people he interacts with, lovers, imaginary friends. These people also misguide and belittle him.
The tone set at the start of the show was wacky, irreverent, and resolutely queer. Some darker elements crept in before too long and by the middle of the show the darker elements had taken over, full tilt boogie. There was a Shostakovich thing going on - - the sparkle and bounce of the music drew us in and we hardly noticed the disturbing things under the surface. At first.
The most memorable scene of the show was an upsetting encounter between the central character and a man he met online. The scene was shockingly graphic, both in its sexual frankness and the racial issues between the two men. This was not something we had seen in a Broadway musical before, let alone a Best Musical Tony winner.
Broadway reopened in September 2021, after a year and a half off because of Covid, and this season has shone a light on the essential work of understudies and swings. Our performance had an understudy in the ensemble and also an understudy in the lead role. Kyle Ramar Freeman was extraordinary, I would never have known that the lead was being played by an understudy if I hadn't had that little slip in my program.
There's been a lot of talk over the last couple of seasons about Broadway producing work about and created by people from underserved and under-represented communities. This show was a great example of that, and the fact that it won what's commonly seen as the most important Tony, it says a lot.