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All aboard the Soul Train to Broadway.
Tony-nominated producer Matthew Weaver (Rock of Ages) acquired the stage rights to adapt the iconic TV dance show into a musical back in 2014. Now the production is eyeing an official 2021 debut in celebration of the program’s 50th anniversary.
Soul Train, inspired by the series created in 1971, will tell the personal story of late host Don Cornelius through more than 20 classic songs from the era as he crafts the famed show.
Tony-nominated playwright Dominique Morisseau (Ain’t Too Proud, The Detroit Project) joins the creative team with Kamilah Forbes (By the Way, Meet Vera Stark; The Mountaintop) as director and Tony nominee Camille A. Brown (Choir Boy, NBC‘s Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert) as choreographer.
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of The Roots, who is a four-time Grammy Award winner and author of Soul Train: The Music, Dance, and Style of a Generation, has signed on as an executive producer. Cornelius’ son Tony Cornelius, CSI creator Anthony E. Zuiker and Live Nation Urban president Shawn Gee will also executive produce the musical. Devin Keudell will serve as executive producer with Bespoke Theatricals (The Color Purple, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) as general manager. Nick Stern from Media Weaver will co-produce.
Along with Weaver, the general producing partners shepherding the train to Broadway includes Jeffrey Tick (former owner of Broadway’s Helen Hayes Theater) and new general producing partner Richard Gay (5Pack Entertainment founder and former executive vp of Viacom’s Music Networks & BET Networks).
“I am so excited to help bring the narrative of one of our culture’s most influential and legend-making endeavors to the stage,” Morisseau said Monday in a statement. “Having grown up on this series and being immersed in the culture around it, I never knew what it took to make it the iconic staple that it is. Through the socio-political challenges both internally and externally, Don Cornelius’ uncompromised vision, and the revolutionary dance culture that the show made visible to the mainstream, there are a million handprints on what we know as Soul Train. I cannot wait to partner with this legendary creative team of incredible women to celebrate the history and the unsung heroes of our nation’s longest running televised music and dance series.”
“With many years of experience working directly with my father, I’m forever grateful and deeply humbled by the impact Soul Train has had on the culture at large both here and abroad,” said Tony Cornelius. “For 37 years, and with purpose, through music, dance and style, Soul Train brought love, peace and soul to a national audience. This positive representation is extremely satisfying and marks its 50th anniversary. Honoring his accomplishments, creative vision and legacy with a Broadway musical only emphasizes the impact Soul Train has had on our American fabric.”
Since its debut in 1971, Soul Train featured performances by R&B, pop, soul and hip-hop artists, in addition to occasional funk, jazz, disco and gospel performers, introducing new dance moves and styles on a weekly basis. The final episode was broadcast in 2006.
In 2016, BET Networks acquired the Soul Train brand and is home to the annual Soul Train Awards, which honor the best in urban music and entertainment. BET also airs the period drama American Soul, based on the rise of Soul Train. The scripted original has been picked up for a second season by the network.
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