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A Strange Loop Broadway Reviews

A STRANGE LOOP Broadway Reviews

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Critics' Reviews


A Strange Loop

From: Time Out New York | By: Adam Feldman | Date: 04/26/2022

Jackson has made minor edits to the show since its Off Broadway run, but the biggest change is in the central casting: Originated by Larry Owens, Usher is now played by Jaquel Spivey in a strong Broadway debut. Although he doesn't have Owens's prickly self-assurance or his sometimes scary rawness-his Usher seems younger, less sure, less fully formed-he has a sensitive presence and a beautiful voice. And all six original Thoughts remain the same, and provide terrific support for Spivey even as they undermine his character. All deserve mention by name: They are Antwayn Hopper, L Morgan Lee, John-Michael Lyles, James Jackson Jr., John-Andrew Morrison and Jason Veasey. "I'm into entertainment that's undercover art," sings Usher of his ambitions for A Strange Loop. Jackson's musical delivers on that promise. The COVID shutdown had a lot of us holding our breaths that Broadway would dare to offer something bold and new when it came back. This is the musical we've been waiting for.


Black, queer, and laceratingly honest, A Strange Loop liberates Broadway

From: The Los Angeles Times | By: Charles McNulty | Date: 04/26/2022

I never thought I'd see anything on Broadway quite like "A Strange Loop," Michael R. Jackson's Pulitzer Prize-winning musical that probes the inner reality of a 26-year-old Black, queer artist who's trying against the odds to transform his alienation into art. For much of this triumphant, emotionally lacerating show, which had its official opening Tuesday at the Lyceum Theatre, I sat with my mouth agape, astonished and grateful that something so brutally honest and rigorously constructed had finally broken through to a Broadway stage.


A Strange Loop is Broadway's best new musical

From: The Washington Post | By: Peter Marks | Date: 04/26/2022

The songs in the 90-minute show take us from blistering satire to bracing self-discovery, so the evening evinces a profound emotional range; our thoughts turn not so much for sustenance to Usher's Thoughts, though, as to Usher himself. That's activated, under Brackett's guidance, by Spivey's keenly permeable portrayal. Usher affects a superior air about art and is so down on himself that he sabotages his opportunity for meaningful intimacy. Even so, his honesty and pain render him entirely lovable. And the musically gifted Spivey, with his dynamic presence and openheartedness, proves the ideal vessel for docking an audience buoyantly in Jackson's thoughts. The composer-lyricist already has that Pulitzer, but now he deserves the Tony. Spivey should get one, too. Heck, give "A Strange Loop" a lot of Tonys. That's only just, for the best Broadway musical of the season.

This review, minus a few obvious updates, is basically what I wrote about "A Strange Loop" in 2019. Despite going on to win the Pulitzer Prize, the show has invoked some chat-room gossip that it "doesn't belong on Broadway." Yes, that's what they once said about "Caroline, or Change," "Avenue Q," "Fun Home" and "Hamilton" before they hit the big time. Not only does "Loop" belong on Broadway, it is by far the best new musical to open during this very strange theater season.


'A Strange Loop' review — a near-perfect marriage of art and activism

From: New York Theatre Guide | By: Juan Michael Porter II | Date: 04/26/2022

"WOW!" I thought to myself as my body leapt to its feet on its own volition to applaud A Strange Loop. "This must be how people who saw the first performances of Show Boat, Oklahoma!, Company, Rent, or Hamilton felt." Though I've witnessed and studied the innovations in each of those musicals, none of them are as revolutionary as what Michael R. Jackson has accomplished with his Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, now making its Broadway debut. That is thanks to his splendid writing and craftsmanship, as well as flawless and often shocking performances given by the cast ― including a fresh-out-of-college leading man, Jaquel Spivey, in his Broadway debut.


Review: ‘A Strange Loop’ is a universal story told through hyperspecificity

From: Broadway News | By: Diep Tran | Date: 04/26/2022

But as I am writing this, it occurs to me that what Jackson does with "A Strange Loop" isn't just write a musical with catchy tunes and clever lyrics. He's also successfully testing the conceit of how the universal is rooted in the specific. In making the lead character a fat, Black gay man, within an industry (and larger society) that prioritizes and idolizes skinny, white bodies, Jackson is making a Black gay man an embodiment of the universal. And he's also written one of the best, and the most groundbreaking, new musicals of the Broadway season.


A STRANGE LOOP, and a Glorious Catharsis — Review

From: Theatrely | By: Joey Sims | Date: 04/26/2022

In crafting a work so joyously and painfully honest, playwright, composer and lyricist Michael R. Jackson walks a fine line. A Strange Loop is a carefully structured piece, lean and quick-paced. Yet it is also a manic mess, a frenzied collage that stays true to its central premise of hurtling through the chaotic depths of one man's rage, trauma, and self-hatred. That is Jackson's most awe-inspiring accomplishment with A Strange Loop, which is certainly the best new musical on Broadway this season: he has created a finely honed piece of theater while always remaining true to his own distinct voice.


Review: ‘A Strange Loop’ makes a remarkable Broadway debut

From: Associated Press | By: Mark Kennedy | Date: 04/26/2022

Jaquel Spivey, in his Broadway debut, plays Usher with such hang-dog and sweet poignancy that it may take audience members supreme self-restraint not to go up on stage and give him a hug. He's battling a toxic stew of romantic rejection and artistic self-doubt, from shame for his secret love of white girl music to fears of being a race traitor. Along for the ride are six sensational actors who play the chorus: Antwayn Hopper, L Morgan Lee, John-Michael Lyles, James Jackson Jr., John-Andrew Morrison and Jason Veasey. Stephen Brackett's direction is crisp and carefully varied over 100 minutes and terrific choreography by Raja Feather Kelly combines everything from twerking to gospel swaying.


A Strange Loop Broadway Review

From: New York Theater | By: Jonathan Mandell | Date: 04/26/2022

Navel-gazy? Sure. But, two decades in the making, this is a piece full of craft and rigor, and nobody is writing off Michael R. Jackson, a big gay Black guy who's no longer struggling to write a musical...


A Strange Loop is profanely funny and courageously raw, but on a second viewing (I reviewed its world premiere Off Broadway in 2019), it's also claustrophobically fixated on the wounds of youth, a howl of rage at gay lookism, white gatekeepers, and toxic Christianity. All those targets deserve to be howled down to hell. But Jackson is 41 years old; his avatar is identified as 26. That's a telling gap, one that permits a rebel's outrage rather than a middle-aged artist's mellower view. The lack of self-awareness combined with merciless self-examination comes to a bathetic head when Thought #1 says, "[it's not about] Tyler or your parents or anybody else. And as scary as this world might seem, all of this ugliness ... this pain and about you. So how about you focus on yourself?" Which is rich after 90 minutes of Usher running screaming around his hall of mirrors.


A Strange Loop review: Michael R. Jackson's ambitious, inspiring debut comes to Broadway

From: Entertainment Weekly | By: Dave Quinn | Date: 04/26/2022

The saying "You've never seen anything like this before" is often overused in reviews. But when it comes to A Strange Loop, the shattering, electrifying debut musical from Michael R. Jackson that opened Tuesday at New York's Lyceum Theatre, the phrase would be an understatement.


A Strange Loop Review: A Big, Black, and Queer-Ass Revitalization of the Musical

From: Slant Magazine | By: Dan Rubins | Date: 04/26/2022

And though one Thought suggests in answer that Usher "might be overcomplicating," A Strange Loop relies upon that level of introspective over-complication to make the case that Usher's thoughts deserve a stage to themselves. In proving that they do, and in bringing Usher's vivid and complex inner life all the way to Broadway with such gripping vibrancy, Jackson nudges the musical theater form in a startling, new direction.

While I can’t deny many will find the brutal honesty of A Strange Loop provocative, its success lies in the delicate balance of specificity and universality. Usher’s journey loops more like a spirograph than the neat circumference of a circle. Like all our lives, it intersects at the most inopportune moments, kicking up fears and inadequacies we thought buried long ago. And that’s not so strange, after all.


‘A Strange Loop’ Review: A Dazzling Ride on a Mental Merry-Go-Round

From: The New York Times | By: Maya Phillips | Date: 04/26/2022

The tricky task I face as a critic is figuring out how to write about a work whose brilliance has already been noted. The New York Times named the show a critic's pick in 2019, and I wrote briefly about the show's Broadway tryout in Washington, D.C., this fall. It's already won the Pulitzer. And yet, it seems as if there is no measure of praise that could be too much; after all, this is a show that allows a Black gay man to be vulnerable onstage without dismissing or fetishizing his trauma, desires and creative ambitions. Now that's some radical theater.



From: New York Stage Review | By: Bob Verini | Date: 04/26/2022

Usher’s a people-person in another sense. He has six strands of “golden braid” working on him at all times: an ensemble of “Thoughts,” who alternately hector, insult, question, and discourage him. I see them as the Self-Sabotage Sextet, or in Jackson’s lexicon, “Usher’s perceptions of reality, inside and out.” Now hilariously, later terrifyingly, they represent all the negativity we battle, often transforming into the fantasies that never come to good, or the real-life friends and families who often as not disappoint. What a marvelous ensemble director Stephen Brackett has marshalled, choreographed smoothly by Raja Feather Kelly in his Broadway bow. Each Thought/reality perception is a distinct type and master of accents, and they meld like an improv company that’s been working together for ages.

Fluidly directed by Stephen Brackett, with Raja Feather Kelly's clever choreography punctuating Jackson's delightfully brash score, A Strange Loop grabs hold of us the moment Usher concludes that funny introduction. If the show begins to lose a little steam - but just a little - towards the end, it's only because Jackson has already made his points so clearly, pointedly and winningly.

As directed by Stephen Brackett, "A Strange Loop" presents a dilemma for critics. It has many stunning sequences and, more than any musical in years, charts a brave path determined to confront not just the assumptions of the genre but their impact on those who take up the mantle of writing them. But it will not appeal to a broad swath of the theatergoing population. It's not for kids. It likely will offend Black conservatives. And some gay theatergoers will not care for its amplification of self-loathing, nor its determined argument that racism is always in the bedroom.

Even truth can be subjective, but "A Strange Loop" doesn't stoop or pander to solicit understanding and empathy. Undoubtedly there are details that may elude typical (read: white, straight, affluent) Broadway theatergoers, language and references specific to Black and/or queer culture presented here without explanatory commas. While "A Strange Loop" may feel "radical" to some (in the parlance of Usher's mom), to others it will be a rare and revolutionary moment of recognition.


A Strange Loop Moves to Broadway, Its Furious Energy Changed but Intact

From: Vulture | By: Helen Shaw | Date: 04/26/2022

At breathtaking speed, for an hour and 45 minutes, Loop continues whirling on like this: the Big Ideas and the petty ones waltzing around in Jackson's profane, hilarious, metamusical carousel. It's less vicariously exhausting than it was Off Broadway, perhaps because the company no longer wrecks itself physically with every performance - but it's still furious, both with the world and itself. The shock of that sharp emotion strikes like a lance. Especially in the Lyceum Theater: It's a red-velvet-and-gilt balloon, and Jackson makes it go pop.


Although Beguiling and Funny, This Meta Exercise Has Aged a Bit Since 2019

From: The New York Sun | By: Elysa Gardner | Date: 04/26/2022

Mr. Jackson's scorn is mitigated, fortunately, by his self-awareness, and by a gift for channeling both his frustration and his own insecurity into lyrical songs and trenchant, exhilarating comedy.


Review | Musical theater as self-therapy in ‘A Strange Loop’

From: AMNY | By: Matt Windman | Date: 04/26/2022

In spite of inventive touches, satirical humor, fluid production values, and songs full of both spark and sensitivity, "A Strange Loop" ultimately falls victim to the perils of its own design, becoming so messy, whiny, confrontational, sexually explicit, and theoretical that it will probably turn off many theatergoers while invigorating and thrilling plenty of others.


‘A Strange Loop’ review: Pain with a side of anguish on Broadway

From: The New York Post | By: Johnny Oleksinski | Date: 04/26/2022

Even if it all plays out like a dramatic therapy session, there is a powerful, raw emotionality to "A Strange Loop," directed by Stephen Brackett, and a boppin' score with a couple memorable tunes - if not much polish or, ultimately, much satisfaction. I missed it at the much smaller Playwrights Horizons in 2019, but would've liked to have felt its effects in a more intimate room. For instance, the sound balance on Broadway is off, and it's hard to hear the lyrics over the band. Prepare your ears: The musical is also absolutely filthy. If "Spring Awakening" or "The Book of Mormon" had you reaching for your rosary, best bring along some holy water and frankincense for this one. On the language front, Jackson goes overboard.

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Pro Readers Reviews


Strange loop

By: | Date: 05/25/2022

I don’t like this show because the song I want to closed that show because I don’t like song today