Russell Simmons Developing 'The Scenario' Hip-Hop Musical
The show is eyeing a world premiere in New York City in late 2016.
Russell Simmons might be heading back to Broadway.
The music mogul announced on Thursday the development of The Scenario, a new stage musical driven by two decades of hip-hop hits, from the "golden age" of the mid-'80s to mid-'90s and through the turn of the millennium. The show is currently eyeing a late 2016 world premiere in New York City.
The Scenario will feature an original story written by hip-hop historian Dan Charnas. Simmons, who launched Def Jam Recordings in 1984, will produce through his Los Angeles-based production company Def Pictures alongside Tony-winning producer Big Block's (Rock of Ages, Heathers, Gentleman’s Guide to Love And Murder) Scott Prisand, Scott Benson, Jamie Bendell and Tom Pellegrini. Jake Stein is shepherding the project on behalf of Def Pictures and will also produce, as will Brian Sher and Stella Bulichnikov.
"Hip hop’s explosion was fueled by a generation with an incredible hunger to discover new ways of expression,” said Simmons in a statement. "These artists were always breaking the mold with new rhythms and new ideas, while at the same time telling so many important and timeless stories that over the decades have continued to remain just as relevant. This is why the music continues to strike a chord with fans worldwide. It felt like such a natural fit to weave the best of these sounds and stories into an energetic and thrilling musical that would transport audiences through one of the most innovative artistic movements of our time."
Simmons previously won a Tony in 2003 for his Def Poetry Jam, but regarding hip-hop musicals' potential on Broadway, the results have been mixed. The Public Theater may have a hit with Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton, which will move directly from its off-Broadway home to Broadway's Richard Rodgers Theatre, becoming an early frontrunner in the 2016 Tony Awards race. However, the Tupac Shakur musical Holler If You Hear Me closed earlier this season, just a month after its opening.
"Part of what made the Rock of Ages experience so incredible for theatregoers was the joy of hearing the most beloved songs of an era serve as the storyteller," said Big Block's Scott Prisand. "Russell is the catalyst of all this extraordinary music that has already touched generations to the core around the world; we’re taking those beats everyone knows and loves, and setting them into a fun original story."
Echoed Stein, “These classic songs, stories and rhythms will find a new audience on the theater stage. We believe this show will be an entirely new entry point for appreciating hip-hop as a transformative art that has shaped culture, fashion, music and entertainment of all forms, and we hope it will help open the door for other live theatrical experiences."
(Curiously enough, the news comes just after a Simmons musical is mentioned on the penultimate episode of Glee, in which Lea Michele's Rachel Berry debates taking a role in the show.)