|A Strange Loop|
|Music||Michael R. Jackson|
|Lyrics||Michael R. Jackson|
|Book||Michael R. Jackson|
|Premiere||May 3, 2019Playwrights Horizons, New York City:|
|Awards||Obie Award for Playwrighting|
Pulitzer Prize for Drama
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical
Tony Award for Best Musical
Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical
A Strange Loop is a musical with book, music, and lyrics by Michael R. Jackson, and winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. First produced off-Broadway in 2019, then staged in Washington, D.C. in 2021, A Strange Loop premiered on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre in April 2022. The show won Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical at the 75th Tony Awards.
The show follows Usher, a Black queer man writing a musical about a Black queer man writing a musical. The title refers to a cognitive science term coined by Douglas Hofstadter, as well as a song by Liz Phair.
While working as an usher at The Lion King, aspiring musical theater writer Usher contemplates the show he is writing, wanting it to represent what it is like to "travel the world in a fat, Black, queer body" ("Intermission Song"). He plans to change himself but his Thoughts are too disruptive ("Today"). His mother, who constantly reminds him how hard she and his father worked to raise him, calls with a request that he write a Tyler Perry-style gospel play ("We Wanna Know").
Usher wishes he could act more like his "inner white girl" but is held back by expectations put on Black boys ("Inner White Girl"). His Thoughts criticize the show, claiming the main character should have more sex appeal and telling him to add certain elements. Usher's father leaves a voicemail saying he found Scott Rudin's number and urges him to leverage their common sexuality to make a connection ("Didn't Want Nothin'").
At a medical checkup, Usher's doctor inquires about his sex life and prescribes Truvada. Usher starts using dating apps but is rejected, causing him to rage against the gay community ("Exile In Gayville"). A stranger flirts with Usher before revealing he is a figment of Usher's imagination and dismissing the war between the "second-wave feminist" and "the dick-sucking Black gay man" within him ("Second Wave").
Usher's agent tells him Tyler Perry is seeking a ghostwriter for a gospel play, but Usher has a low opinion of Perry's work. Appearing as famous Black figures, his Thoughts accuse him of being a race traitor and persuade him to take the job ("Tyler Perry Writes Real Life"). Usher writes the play, acting out all the characters as caricatures ("Writing a Gospel Play").
At work, Usher tells a patron he cannot continue the show without confronting his parents with his artistic self. The patron advises him to live without fear ("A Sympathetic Ear"). Usher speaks with his parents over the phone, his father asking if he has contracted HIV and his mother asking about the status of the gospel play. After hooking up with "Inwood Daddy", a white man who fetishizes him and calls him racial slurs, Usher questions his "Boundaries".
On his birthday, Usher's mother leaves a voicemail reminding him homosexuality is a sin ("Periodically") while his father calls to inform him their church community does not approve of his music ("Didn't Want Nothin' [Reprise]"). While arguing with his parents about his homosexuality, Usher's mother, horrified by her portrayal in the play, accuses him of hating and disappointing her. Usher recalls how his friend Darnell, thinking he deserved to die, refused HIV medication and concludes living with AIDS is worse than dying from it ("Precious Little Dream/AIDS Is God's Punishment"). His mother tells Usher he is loved but thinks he's struggling because of his homosexuality.
The Thought playing Usher's mother stops the show and asks if he wants to end the show with hateful caricatures of his parents. Usher claims he is depicting life as it was when he was seventeen, but the Thought reminds him he is now twenty-six. Usher reflects on his childhood, eventually realizing his perceptions of his parents must change if he is to change ("Memory Song"). With his back to the audience, Usher wonders what will happen when the show ends. He turns around, concluding that change is an illusion and he, like everyone else, is in "A Strange Loop".
|Character||MTF Workshop (2015)||Off-Broadway (2019)||Washington, DC (2021)||Broadway (2022)||London (2023)|
|Usher||Larry Owens||Jaquel Spivey||Kyle Ramar Freeman|
|Thought 1||L Morgan Lee||Sharlene Hector|
|Thought 2||James Jackson, Jr.||Nathan Armarkwei-Laryea|
|Thought 3||Elijah Caldwell||John-Michael Lyles||Yeukayi Ushe|
|Thought 4||John-Andrew Morrison||Tendai Humphrey Sitima|
|Thought 5||Jason Veasey||Danny Bailey|
|Thought 6||Jamaal Clark Turpin||Antwayn Hopper||Eddie Elliot|
A Strange Loop began previews at off-Broadway venue Playwrights Horizons on May 24, 2019. It opened on June 17, 2019, with closing scheduled for July 7, 2019, before extending to July 28, 2019. The show featured Larry Owens as Usher. The creative team credits included Michael R. Jackson as writer of book, music, and lyrics, Stephen Brackett as director, Raja Feather Kelly as choreographer, Charlie Rosen as orchestrator, and Rona Siddiqui as music director.
The Washington, DC production at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company was originally scheduled for September 2020, but postponed to December 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The six-week limited run began previews November 22, 2021, and opened December 3, 2021. The show extended another week, changing its closing date from January 2 to 9, 2022.
The Broadway production of A Strange Loop was announced December 20, 2021. Many notable people from the entertainment industry served as the show's producers. They included lead producer Barbara Whitman, as well as Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, Jennifer Hudson, RuPaul Charles, Marc Platt, Megan Ellison of Annapurna Pictures, Don Cheadle, Frank Marshall, James L. Nederlander, Alan Cumming, Ilana Glazer, Mindy Kaling and Billy Porter. Previews were scheduled to begin on April 6, but were postponed to April 14 due to COVID-19 breakouts among the cast. The show officially opened April 26, 2022. In October 2022, it was announced that the show would play its final performance on Broadway on January 15, 2023.
The London production opened at the Barbican Centre on June 17, 2023, for a limited run until September 9. It is being produced by Howard Panter for Trafalgar Theatre Productions, the National Theatre, Barbara Whitman and Wessex Grove. Brackett, Kelly, Rosen, Siddiqui, and the rest of the Broadway creative team return for the London production. Kyle Ramar Freeman, who understudied Usher on Broadway, stars in the production alongside an all-British cast of Thoughts.
Upon opening off-Broadway on June 17, 2019. A Strange Loop received good critical acclaim. In particular, it was praised for its emotional honesty and meta themes within both the writing and the musical compositions. It was also praised for the performances that the cast gave, calling them “physically exhaustive.” However, it was deemed as unlikely to become a Broadway show due to it potentially getting "too easily lost in a Broadway House."
A Strange Loop opened on Broadway on April 26, 2022, and also received good critical acclaim. In particular, it was praised for its themes and tone which were successfully retained from the off-Broadway version and then cleaned up for the larger, more consumer based crowd which would be found on Broadway. There was a light critiquing about how working within the large institution of Broadway instead of merely peering in has made some of the commentary become shallow.
The original off-Broadway cast recording was released on September 27, 2019, on Yellow Sound Label. The album peaked at number 6 on the Billboard Cast Albums chart. A Broadway cast album was recorded on April 10, 2022, and released on June 10, 2022, through Sh-K-Boom Records, Yellow Sound Label, Barbara Whitman Productions, and Ghostlight Records. It debuted at number two on the Cast Albums chart. The cast recording received a Grammy nomination for Best Musical Theater Album for the 65th Annual Grammy Awards, to be held in February 2023.
On June 14, 2022, Deadline reported that the musical filled 98% of its available seats during the week ending June 12. The musical grossed $676,316 for seven performances. The musical also broke the Lyceum Theatre box office house record for a standard 8-performance week, taking $860,496 for the week ending June 26, a $15,183 bump over the previous week. As of September 2022, A Strange Loop grossed around $14.2 million from 136,777 attendance and 157 performance.
On May 4, 2020, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama was awarded to Jackson for the musical, with the committee citing the show as "a metafictional musical that tracks the creative process of an artist transforming issues of identity, race, and sexuality that once pushed him to the margins of the cultural mainstream into a meditation on universal human fears and insecurities." The show is the tenth musical to win the award, as well as the first musical written by a Black person to win and first musical to win without a Broadway run. The show premiered on Broadway in April 2022 and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. As one of its producers, Jennifer Hudson became the second Black woman to receive all four of the major American entertainment awards (EGOT).
The cast recording received a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album for the 2023 Grammy Awards, which it lost to the 2022 Broadway cast recording of Into the Woods.
|2020||Lucille Lortel Awards||Outstanding Musical||A Strange Loop||Nominated|
|Outstanding Director||Stephen Brackett||Nominated|
|Outstanding Choreographer||Raja Feather Kelly||Nominated|
|Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical||Larry Owens||Won|
|Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical||John-Andrew Morrison||Won|
|Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||L Morgan Lee||Nominated|
|Outstanding Costume Design||Montana Levi Blanco||Nominated|
|Drama Desk Awards||Outstanding Musical||A Strange Loop||Won|
|Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Larry Owens||Won|
|Outstanding Director of a Musical||Stephen Brackett||Won|
|Outstanding Music||Michael R. Jackson||Nominated|
|Outstanding Book of a Musical||Won|
|New York Drama Critic's Circle Awards||Best Musical||A Strange Loop||Won|
|Drama League Award||Outstanding Production of a Musical||A Strange Loop||Nominated|
|Distinguished Performance Award||Larry Owens||Nominated|
|Off-Broadway Alliance Awards||Best New Musical||A Strange Loop||Won|
|Pulitzer Prize||Pulitzer Prize for Drama||Michael R. Jackson||Won|
|Outer Critics Circle Award||Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical||A Strange Loop||Honoree|
|Outstanding Book of a Musical||Michael R. Jackson||Honoree|
|Outstanding New Score||Michael R. Jackson||Honoree|
|Outstanding Director of a Musical||Stephen Brackett||Honoree|
|Outstanding Choreographer||Raja Feather Kelly||Honoree|
|Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Larry Owens||Honoree|
|Obie Award||Playwrighting||Michael R. Jackson||Won|
|Special Citation||Creative team and ensemble – Antwayn Hopper, James Jackson, Jr., L Morgan Lee, John-Michael Lyles, John-Andrew Morrison, Larry Owens, Jason Veasey, Elijah Caldwell, Stephen Brackett, Raja Feather Kelly, Arnulfo Maldonado, Montana Levi Blanco, Jen Schriever, Alex Hawthorn, Cookie Jordan, Charlie Rosen, Rona Siddiqui, Michael R. Jackson||Won|
|2022||Tony Awards||Best Musical||Won|
|Best Book of a Musical||Michael R. Jackson||Won|
|Best Original Score||Nominated|
|Best Actor in a Musical||Jaquel Spivey||Nominated|
|Best Featured Actor in a Musical||John-Andrew Morrison||Nominated|
|Best Featured Actress in a Musical||L Morgan Lee||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Stephen Brackett||Nominated|
|Best Scenic Design of a Musical||Arnulfo Maldonado||Nominated|
|Best Lighting Design of a Musical||Jen Schriever||Nominated|
|Best Sound Design of a Musical||Drew Levy||Nominated|
|Best Orchestrations||Charlie Rosen||Nominated|
|Drama Desk Awards||Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Jaquel Spivey||Won|
|Drama League Award||Outstanding Production of a Musical||A Strange Loop||Won|
|Distinguished Performance Award||Jaquel Spivey||Nominated|
|L Morgan Lee||Nominated|
|Outer Critics Circle Awards||Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Jaquel Spivey||Won|
|Theatre World Award||Jaquel Spivey||Honoree|