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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Saul Williams leads cast of Kenny Leon's Tupac musical

Saul Williams

The cast was announced this week for Atlanta director Kenny Leon's Tupac Shakur-inspired Broadway musical, and actor/poet/musician Saul Williams snagged the lead role.

But that doesn't mean he'll be playing Tupac.

The non-biographical play will use Tupac's music to tell the story of two Midwest men and their severed friendship. Williams, a Morehouse College alum who earned his MFA in acting from NYU, will play the main character John. Billed as a story "about friendship, family, revenge, change and hope," Holler If You Hear Me begins performances May 29 and is set to open June 19 at the Palace Theatre (1564 Broadway at 47th Street).

Going the non-biographical route could prove to be a clever way to garner a more empathic response from Broadway patrons to one of the most polarizing cultural figures of the past 20 years. It'll be interesting to see how a Pac-inspired project plays out on Broadway. The involvement of Tupac's mother, Afeni Shakur, is a good sign; she's a producer. And Williams certainly can hold his own on stage. His breakout role in the 1998 Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning Slam is still pretty riveting. If anything, Leon deserves advance kudos for getting a show like this off the ground before the long-awaited Hollywood biopic on Shakur. Of course, the outcome will fall on the shoulders of the actual production and the book, which is written by Todd Kreidler, with choreography from Wayne Cilento and music supervision by Daryl Waters.

Holler If You Hear Me also co-stars Atlanta native and Tri-Cities High School alum Saycon Sengbloh in the role of Corrine.

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