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About the show

Meet Usher: a black, queer writer writing a
musical about a black, queer writer writing a
musical about a black, queer writer…

Winner of the Tony Award® for Best Musical, Michael R. Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize–winning, blisteringly funny masterwork exposes the heart and soul of a young artist grappling with desires, identity, and instincts he both loves and loathes. Hell-bent on breaking free of his own self-perception, Usher wrestles with the thoughts in his head, brought to life on stage by a hilarious, straight-shooting ensemble. Bold and heartfelt in its truth-telling, A Strange Loop is the big, Black, and queer-ass Great American Musical for all!

A STRANGE LOOP  IS A FEROCIOUS, PUNGENT HIT—SOME OF THE MOST VITAL WORK IN AMERICAN THEATER.”

Wesley Morris,
the new york times
“Broadway’s best new musical.”
Peter Marks,
The Washington Post
Usher plans to change his whole life today.
“Screamingly funny. Unmissable.”
Adam Feldman,
Time Out New York
“A dazzling ride.”
Maya Phillips,
The New York Times
How many minutes ‘til the end of intermission?
A Strange Loop Photo
“Phenomenal. Unflinching.”
Naveen Kumar,
Variety
“Grade A: Nothing short of astounding.”
Dave Quinn,
Entertainment Weekly
He wants to show what it’s like to travel the world in a fat, black, queer body.
“Triumphant and emotionally lacerating.”
Charles McNulty,
LA Times
“By far the best new musical to open this season.”
Robert Hofler,
The Wrap
“Deeply personal, rich, and funny.”
Chris Jones,
Chicago Tribune

What’s goin’ on in New York

The Origin of A Strange Loop

Michael R. Jackson: “At the very beginning, it was only a monologue that I wrote during my last year as a playwriting student at NYU. I was 22, 23 years old with a playwriting degree. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life, so I wrote this thinly veiled, personal monologue called ‘Why I Can’t Get Work.’ That was about this young, Black gay man walking around New York, wondering why life was so terrible. And it was just that.1 I applied to a bunch of grad schools, and NYU Graduate Musical Theatre Writing was the one I got into. The form of musical theater and songwriting in particular, turned out to be the perfect container for writing I had been doing since middle school.2 One of my classmates—a friend of mine was another Black gay man—wrote a song about a one-night stand and feeling deep religious guilt about it and other feelings that I recognized, because I grew up Black and gay around a lot of other Black gay boys. And it just struck me. And I wrote in my notebook, “All those Black gay boys I knew who chose to go on back to the Lord.”3

“Memory Song”

MRJ: “At the end of my second semester, our teacher said, ‘If you’re a lyricist who’s never written any music and want to try it, or if you’re a composer and want to try writing lyrics, go for it.’ So the song I wrote was ‘Memory Song,’ and it was the first song I had ever written. And it was just a stand-alone song for me.4 The spirit of the song is recalling when I was 15 or 16, which is around the time when I was coming out, which was a very difficult and painful and weird time. I performed [a version of the show] one night only at ARS Nova in New York City. Twenty people came and two of them walked out in the middle of it. And then from there I was like, I don’t want this to be a one-man show, I don’t want this to be a cabaret act, I want it to be a musical.”5

Timeline of
A Strange Loop

Rebel Verses (Center Stage)

Fast Food Town (Ars Nova)

A Strange Loop (Playwrights Realm)

The Lark

Broadway’s Future Concert Series

Reading

Musical Theatre Factory

New Musicals at 54 Below

Reading at Playwrights Horizons

Playwrights Horizons

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

Broadway

Michael R. Jackson: “I felt determined that I could create something that had as much entertainment value as something that you would expect to see on Broadway, but that it had the sort of heart and intelligence that are in a lot of those classic musicals of yesteryear that are harder to get produced today.6 I had to learn what the story was. I’m a very story-driven writer, and it was drawn from my personal experience, but it needed to have a beginning, middle, and end, and there was no beginning, middle, and end to my life. It wasn’t until I started going to therapy that I realized the problem was, ‘Oh, you think something’s wrong with you. And there is nothing wrong with you.’ I captured that that was Usher’s problem—something’s wrong with him, he’s got to fix it—and once it was married to this strange-loop structure, I knew what I was chasing.”7

1.Slate’s Working Podcast  2. Playwrights Horizons  3. PBS’s American Masters Creative Spark Podcast  4. Playwrights Horizons  5. PBS’s American Masters Creative Spark Podcast  6. The Fabulous Invalid Podcast  7. Slate