Home Entertainment The Alicia Keys musical, ‘Hell’s Kitchen,’ is sweet, and nothing extra

The Alicia Keys musical, ‘Hell’s Kitchen,’ is sweet, and nothing extra


NEW YORK — In “Hell’s Kitchen,” they’ve crafted a wonderfully good musical out of the soul-fired songbook of Alicia Keys. Ali, a personality impressed by the teenage Keys and performed by newcomer Maleah Joi Moon, is strong-willed however good. Her boo, Knuck (Chris Lee), is a bit standoffish but additionally very nice. Regardless of her onerous shell, Ali’s mom, Jersey (Shoshana Bean), appears fairly darn good, too. As for Ali’s unreliable, largely absent father, Davis (Brandon Victor Dixon): You’d must grant that, at some degree, he’s type of — nicely, you get the image.

Even New York, the powerful burg Keys and Jay-Z and others romanticized within the 2009 music “Empire State of Thoughts” — and now the “Hell’s Kitchen” finale — comes throughout as a chummy city the place you’re certain to search out your personal supportive group. And in addition dance loads, within the singer-songwriter’s anthology musical that marked its official opening Sunday evening at off-Broadway’s Public Theater.

So, to recap: Keys and firm have written a present about dwelling that isn’t all that a lot to jot down dwelling about. Utilizing Keys’s blues-, jazz- and pop-infused compositions, director Michael Greif and librettist Kristoffer Diaz assemble a teenage coming-of-age musical with lots of the characters we’ve come to know and hold two steps forward of: the stressed 17-year-old, the protecting mother, the lovable boyfriend, the demanding trainer.

They and a spunky ensemble have been assembled on designer Robert Brill’s scaffolded set (which is able to remind you of different Greif-directed tasks, such because the Pulitzer-winning “Subsequent to Regular”). In 23 songs written by Keys with different artists, they inform the tried-and-true story of a star and her roots. Besides that, on the proof of “Hell’s Kitchen,” there isn’t a lot scintillating story to inform.

What “Hell’s Kitchen” does dish out in ample parts are vocalizing and dancing pleasures. The performances by Lee, Bean, Dixon and Kecia Lewis (the final as Ali’s lovingly stern piano teacher, Miss Liza Jane) are sung with polished, at occasions dazzling conviction. Oozing street-smart appeal, Moon makes a formidable skilled debut as Keys’s alter ego (though one hopes that with this octave-traversing function, Moon’s voice stays suitably rested). And Camille A. Brown’s choreography, alive with the city vitality of hip-hop and home dancing, gives a dependable supply of electrical energy.

“She’s only a woman and he or she’s on hearth,” goes the lyric to “Lady on Hearth,” from Keys’s 2012 album of that title. Like lots of the songs in “Hell’s Kitchen” — the Midtown Manhattan neighborhood the place the singer-songwriter grew up — this one satisfies the present’s autobiographical mandate. “Gramercy Park,” sweetly sung by Lee and Moon, takes place, aptly sufficient, in that prosperous district, the place Knuck works as a home painter, and “Pawn It All,” delivered with blow-the-speakers-out energy by Bean, expresses all of Jersey’s disappointment on the awful husband and father she opted for.

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You’re by no means fairly allowed to neglect over the 2½ hours of “Hell’s Kitchen” {that a} musical constructed on “discovered” music has a restricted toolbox. Greif, Diaz and Brown line up the ensemble on the high of Act 2 for a heartwarming “Authors of Ceaselessly”: “So let’s have a good time the dreamers/ We embrace the area between us,” they sing — a scene that appears patterned on “Seasons of Love,” the unforgettable Act 2 opener of the Greif-directed “Lease.” The tip devised for Miss Liza Jane, graciously embodied by Lewis, additionally appears like one thing taken from the Information to Inspirational Characters.

Keys’s followers in all probability gained’t maintain the musical to account for these slightly standard-issue components, because the orchestrations by Adam Blackstone and Tom Kitt, preparations by Blackstone and Keys, and music path by Dominic Fallacaro so exuberantly reproduce the tunes they love. It’s all in service of one thing wanting fabulous. Simply, you recognize, good.

Hell’s Kitchen, music and lyrics by Alicia Keys, guide by Kristoffer Diaz. Directed by Michael Greif. Choreography, Camille A. Brown; music supervision, Adam Blackstone; Units, Robert Brill; costumes, Dede Ayite; lighting, Natasha Katz; sound, Gareth Owen; projections, Peter Nigrini; orchestrations, Adam Blackstone and Tom Kitt. With Chad Carstarphen, Crystal Monee Corridor, Vanessa Ferguson. About 2½ hours. By means of Jan. 14 at Public Theater, 425 Lafayette St., New York. publictheater.org.

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