THE GROUND-BREAKING AND CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED WINNER OF EVERY ‘BEST MUSICAL’ AWARD ON BROADWAY AND THE PULITZER PRIZE, BURSTS ONTO THE STAGE OF THE BARBICAN THIS JUNE FOR A ONE TIME ONLY, LIMITED SEASON.
Meet Usher: a black, queer writer writing a
musical about a black, queer writer writing a
musical about a black, queer writer…
Grab your chance to see Michael R. Jackson’s blisteringly funny, ‘audacious and uproarious’ (The Guardian) heart-felt masterwork, which exposes a young black 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 onstage by a hilarious, straight-shooting ensemble.
It’s ‘A dazzling ride’ (New York Times), ‘Screamingly funny. Unmissable. The musical we’ve been waiting for.’ (Time Out) and this is your ONLY chance to see it in the UK.
What’s comin’ from 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
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
A Strange Loop
Rebel Verses (Center Stage)
Fast Food Town (Ars Nova)
A Strange Loop (Playwrights Realm)
Broadway’s Future Concert Series
Musical Theatre Factory
New Musicals at 54 Below
Reading at Playwrights Horizons
Off Broadway Season
London’s West End
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