NEW YORK — Broadway audiences will soon be hearing the hit songs of Alicia Keys – not far from where the multiple-Grammy-winner grew up.
“Hell’s Kitchen,” the semi-autobiographical musical by the singer-songwriter, is making the move uptown from off-Broadway to the Shubert Theatre this spring.
“I loved going to the theater and I was inspired by it and the songwriting and the expression and the beauty and the way you could be transported,” she tells The Associated Press. “But I never really put it together that maybe one day I would be able to have a debut on Broadway.”
Performances begin March 28 with an opening set for April 20. Tickets are on sale Dec. 11. No casting news was revealed but Maleah Joi Moon was the lead off-Broadway.
The musical features Keys’ best-known hits: “Fallin’,” “No One,” “Girl on Fire,” “If I Ain’t Got You,” and, of course, “Empire State of Mind,” as well as four new songs.
The coming-of-age story about a gifted teenager is by playwright Kristoffer Diaz, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity.” It is directed by Michael Greif, who also helmed “Dear Evan Hansen,” and has choreography by Camille A. Brown.
“Hell’s Kitchen” centers on 17-year-old Ali, who like Keys, is the daughter of a white mother and a Black father and is about growing up in a subsidized housing development just outside Times Square in the once-rough neighborhood called Hell’s Kitchen. Keys is also the lead producer.
Keys notes that her mother moved to New York City from Toledo, Ohio, and studied at New York University, eventually acting on stage, in independent films and TV projects. Keys also went into acting before music snatched her away. “Hell’s Kitchen,” in a way, is a full-circle moment for the Keys’ family.
“Dreams come around for you – they might not come for you exactly when you thought it was going to come for you. But they do. They find their way,” she says.
Reviews of the musical were kind, with The New Yorker calling it “frequently exhilarating” to Variety saying it is a “sparkling story paying homage to New York” and The Guardian calling it “surprisingly loose-limbed and rousing.”
Keys says the show may undergo a few tweaks here and there to prepare for a larger stage, but the bones of the show are strong.
“Surely pieces of it will continue to evolve and grow. That’s the beauty of art,” she says. “What I know is intact is the spirit of it. The spirit of it is so pure and so good and it’s so infectious. It is about transformation. It really is about finding who you are.”
It will join a glut of recent jukebox musicals on Broadway, a list that includes “A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical,” “& Juliet,” “MJ” and “Moulin Rouge!” One that used the songs of Britney Spears – “Once Upon a One More Time” – closed this fall.
This isn’t Keys’ first flirtation with Broadway. In 2011, she was a co-producer of the Broadway play “Stick Fly,” for which she supplied some music.
Keys will join such pop and rock luminaries as Elton John, Cyndi Lauper, Sting, Alanis Morissette, Dave Stewart, Edie Brickell, David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, Bono and The Edge with Broadway scores.