Holler If Ya Hear Me's First of Several Mistakes

There are moments when Holler If Ya Here Me is not so terrible. There are moments when it has the potential to be utterly bonkers…which, y’know, always welcome around these parts. And to be honest, I went into this show hoping it would be “an experience” because at least that is something of a take-away to kick off the 2014-2015 season.

But no…Holler If You Hear Me, occupying the Palace Theatre, is really boring. Really really boring.

The first thing I said to Courtney at intermission - which really says it all - is “do these characters have names?” Hell if I know and after seeing the entirety of the show, I have no idea what the plot fairies conjured up here. Tupac’s music and message should have been an abundance of inspiration, Broadway or not, but HIYHM reads as generic almost instantly. Violence, gang and race relations, society’s breakdown, all of those - timeless themes in their own right - somehow felt stale in an era where Trayvon Martin’s shooter was acquitted less than a year ago.

Todd Kreidler’s book (or lack thereof) is the biggest issue. But there is also Kenny Leon, fucking things up further. I might have LOVED the moment towards the end when one of the characters gets shot and killed, only to come alive a minute later and have a dance break and rap his face off (oh, to be a fly on the wall during THAT table read). But Leon directed most of his principal performers, sometimes mid-song, to move props and scenery upstage or off-stage in preparation for the next scene (or for some other reason), if not just walk off entirely. Each scene kept getting interrupted BY THE SCENE ITSELF. Performers. Mid-belt (or mid-rap). Just walking off the stage, voice trailing off in the distance. WTF IS THIS?

And remember, this is the guy who just won a Tony for Best Director of a Play.

It’s not that I don’t have an opinion on the music and orchestrations, but I’m hardly qualified. I don’t think I have ever heard of a Tupac song and if I did, I don’t remember it amidst my years jamming along to the A*Teens and Michelle Branch. I can’t really comment on the performances either because if the direction is a disaster and the book that awful, the performances are just, like, there. Still, it was lovely to see Christopher Jackson on stage again, even though he keeps turning up in mediocre shows. And Ben Thompson, whom I’ve liked for years On and Off-Broadway, has a role. Hope he gets more of them. And next time, hopefully in won’t be in such pointless schlock.

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

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