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Exclusive: How Adam Blackstone and Tom Kitt​​​​​​​ Found the Voice of HELL'S KITCHEN

Hell's Kitchen is Tony-nominated for Best Musical.

By: Jun. 14, 2024
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Exclusive: How Adam Blackstone and Tom Kitt​​​​​​​ Found the Voice of HELL'S KITCHEN  Image
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As the 77th Annual Tony Awards quickly approach, BroadwayWorld has invited the producers of the Best Production nominees to reflect on their experiences in bringing their shows to Broadway in this stellar season.

Today, we hear from Adam Blackstone and Tom Kitt, who created the orchestrations of the 13-time Tony-nominated Best Musical, Hell's Kitchen.

For Blackstone and Kitt, the opportunity to work with Alicia Keys and help bring her iconic music to Broadway was an enormous gift. Collaborating for the first time on Hell’s Kitchen, Adam and Tom became immediate friends, discovering in the process, a beautiful synergy and shared sensibility that made the work feel inspired and life-affirming.  In the excerpts below, they describe in their own words, a bit of their process in helping Hell’s Kitchen find its musical voice on Broadway.

ADAM: “The process of working on Hell’s Kitchen was such an incredible journey for me.  Personally, I’ve been working on the show for about 8 years now, having worked with Alicia for about a decade, now as well, as her musical director.  When she approached me about taking, arguably some of the most incredibly known pop songs, to the Broadway stage it presented a different type of challenge, the challenge of arranging, writing, and orchestrating from the perspective of a character.  During the development process, we went to many incredible shows on Broadway to get a vibe for what our music could and would sound like.  And then later in the process, we were able to find and musically marry my collaborator Tom Kitt and right away, we hit it off.  Tom was able to bring to life our vision that existed only in piano form.  He was able to put it down on paper and also, embellish and enhance the sonic palette, creating new sounds and colors that allowed us to hear this music in a different light.  The challenges that we discovered in the beginning, all went away once we found that trust for one another, trust that we are bringing Alicia’s creative vision to light.  She trusts us.  Me and Tom trust one another.” 

TOM: “As a musician, I have experienced certain seminal moments that continue to be snapshots in my mind; moments where I can remember exactly where I was when I first heard something so awe-inspiring, I knew it would change the face of music.  The first time I heard the music of Alicia Keys, was one of those moments.  I’ll never forget the visceral feeling of discovering that iconic E minor arpeggio that begins Fallin’, the introduction to her symphonic declaration of love, longing, passion, and vulnerability.  Never in a million years did I think that one day I would be so fortunate to not only meet Alicia, but also, collaborate with her on a new musical that celebrates her singular voice.   Add to that, the enormous thrill of getting to work with Adam Blackstone, the virtuosic arranger, orchestrator, instrumentalist (I highly recommend you jump at the chance to see him perform live), and music director.  Working with Adam has been one of the great collaborations of my career.  I came into this process eager to make sure I would meet the piece in motion, discovering where I could support the beautiful work Adam and Alicia had been doing during the development process.  Having worked on shows like American Idiot and Jagged Little Pill, I felt that I could offer some perspective on honoring the authenticity of the music while embracing how a theatrical adaptation might lead to new exciting musical discoveries.”

ADAM: “This show is so special because we’ve seen it in so many different forms, from table readings to our first production at The Public Theater, finding what worked, and what didn’t work.  And then, expanding to the Shubert Theater which would bring with it a new instrumentation that we had to get exactly right.  I made sure to keep the authenticity of the music intact by bringing my pop sensibilities to the process, such as the use of 808’s that would help to create a thrilling sonic boom that is part of the experience (shout-out to  Gareth Owen, our brilliant sound designer).  It was also a challenge to build a bigger band on pop music that might not necessarily come with a horn or string section on everything.  One of the things that Tom was able to do was to find space for each instrument, which enhanced what me and Alicia had been doing up to that point.  It’s been a great process and I feel blessed to be in the Best Orchestrations category with Tom.  I’ve learned so much from this process and I plan on this not being my last Broadway play.  And now, to be Tony nominated, I’m super thankful for the opportunity and the Broadway acceptance.”

TOM: “Art is about so many things, but to me, joy is as important a component as anything.  Seeing Alicia experience her music in a new way through the brilliance of our phenomenal company is pure joy.  Observing her leading the actors through vocal rehearsals and imparting her musicality, wisdom and expertise is pure joy.  Watching Adam work with and lead the musicians, play the bass, or even simply talk about music, is pure joy.  It has made me want to become a better and deeper artist.  And when I sit in the Shubert Theater and listen to the music, I’m immediately transported back to that younger version of myself, hearing Fallin’ for the first time.  And that feeling is pure joy.”